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Fond du Lac tribal councilor faces felony theft charges

A Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa councilor allegedly pocketed a $2,000 check that was intended to finance the construction of a bike path on the reservation.

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Vanessa Northrup
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A Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa councilor allegedly pocketed a $2,000 check that was intended to finance the construction of a bike path on the reservation.

Court documents state that Reservation Business Committee member Vanessa Northrup deposited the check from the University of Minnesota into her personal bank account in September 2016.

The funds were intended to build a path between the band’s government building and the university’s Cloquet Forestry Center. The Carlton County Sheriff’s Office began investigating Northrup when the missing check was reported a year later, according to a criminal complaint.

Northrup, 45, of Cloquet, was charged Thursday with felony counts of theft and receiving stolen property. She has been summoned to appear in State District Court in Carlton on Dec. 20.

Northrup, who was elected to the RBC’s District 1 seat in June 2016, has declined requests for comment this week, while fellow band members have initiated an effort to remove her from office.

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According to the criminal complaint, the reservation’s financial staff discovered the missing funds while conducting an audit this September and requested the assistance of the sheriff’s office.

Investigators said they obtained bank records showing that Northrup deposited the check, which was written out to the reservation, into a personal account on Sept. 6, 2016. Band officials reported that she did not have the authority to endorse the check for personal use, according to the complaint.

Investigators said Northrup at the same time deposited a check in her own name worth $176, but withdrew a total of $300 in cash from the two transactions.

RBC Secretary/Treasurer Ferdinand Martineau wrote in a recent article for the band’s newspaper that Northrup agreed to repay the funds after she was confronted with the evidence.

However, Martineau recommended that band members circulate a petition calling for Northrup’s removal of office. That process has already begun, he told the Cloquet Pine Journal earlier this week.

Band members have 90 days to collect and submit signatures from at least 20 percent of eligible voters who live within reservation boundaries in order to initiate a hearing on her removal.

Each felony charge carries a maximum of five years in prison, if convicted. A check of Northrup’s history shows that she had misdemeanor convictions from the 1990s including damage to property and violating a harassment order.

Related Topics: CARLTON COUNTYCRIME
Tom Olsen has covered crime and courts for the Duluth News Tribune since 2013. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota Duluth and a lifelong resident of the city. Readers can contact Olsen at 218-723-5333 or tolsen@duluthnews.com.
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