CORTEZ, Colo. — The U.S. attorney’s office says the amount of federal funds stolen from the Ute Mountain Ute tribe in a financial scam has jumped from $17,599 stolen to $793,000.

The Journal reported Thursday that the scheme involved employees of the tribe’s Financial Services Department who illegally dispersed checks written to individuals they selected, including non-tribal members and people in prison.

U.S. attorney’s spokesman Jeff Dorschner says eight people, including tribal members, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court this week to various embezzlement and money laundering charges.

Dorschner says those eight people represent “a small sublet” of the total number of people under federal investigation.

The criminal investigation began in 2016 after a financial audit of the tribe.

Information from: Cortez Journal,

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