November 14, 2013 | Vol. 39, No. 46

Juneau Native leader accused of embezzlement

JUNEAU (AP) — A former president and CEO of Sealaska Corp. was charged with felony theft, accused of embezzling funds from two nonprofit organizations run by an Alaska Native civil rights group in Juneau.

Robert W. Loescher is accused of stealing $21,500 from the bank accounts of a legal defense fund to protect subsistence rights and another entity focusing on security of traditional food resources.

Loescher could not be reached Monday. It's unclear if he has an attorney.

Loescher, 66, chaired both the Alaska Subsistence Defense Fund and the Alaska Traditional Foods Security Council, according to the Juneau Empire (http://is.gd/eiXTKZ). The groups were created by the Alaska Native Brotherhood Alaska Native Sisterhood Grand Camp.

Loescher has been removed from his posts.

According to an affidavit, the thefts took place in 2012, but weren't discovered until this year when a new Grand Camp treasurer noticed the money was missing. The discrepancy was reported to Juneau police in late September.

Loescher was appointed president of Sealaska in 1997, resigning from the Juneau-based regional Native corporation without explanation in January 2001.

Grand Camp officials have not commented. An affidavit, however, says the organization wanted to pursue charges against Loescher.

Grand Camp vice president Sasha Soboleff said Friday he was unable to comment on a pending legal case. According to the affidavit, Soboleff told police Loescher maintained he was justified in taking the funds, but promised to pay the money back.

A court hearing on the case is scheduled for Dec. 5.

Loescher, who is semi-retired, is active in the community. He is a former City and Borough of Juneau Assembly member. He currently serves as one of 32 Juneau delegates with the Central Council Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska.

Last year, Loescher was named the council's Citizen of the Year.

The Grand Camp raised $10,000 to create the two nonprofits in 2009, in light of an investigation by the U.S. Department of Interior over subsistence management in Alaska.

That year, subsistence management issues pervaded Alaska politics as then-state Sen. Albert Kookesh and three others were cited for overfishing their subsistence sockeye salmon permits. Kookesh, an Angoon Democrat, urged Alaskans to fight for their cultural right to support their subsistence ways of life.

Kookesh's case was among the first for the legal defense fund, and the case was later dismissed.

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