Ex-Quinault Nation employee guilty of embezzzlement

A federal judge convicted a former Quinault Indian Nation accounting specialist Monday morning for embezzlement dating back to 2007.

Ann Louise Ludwig was convicted of 20 counts of embezzlement of tribal funds for taking $51,111 between March of 2007 and November of 2008, including some funds geared for disaster relief in the wake of the December 2007 storm and other funds used to help tribal members who needed to cash checks or receive change after paying their cable and utilities bills.

After a three-day bench trial, U.S. District Judge Benjamin Settle found Ludwig guilty.

Ludwig had resided in Copalis Beach and worked for the finance department of the Quinault Indian Nation from 2001 to 2008. She lives in Las Vegas now.

She faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation allege that Ludwig wrote 20 checks to “cash” or to the bank and used the funds to pay her mortgage and other personal expenses. Following the December 2007 storm, she allegedly used two Costco gift cards that were intended to help victims of the December 2007 storm. She allegedly used the cards to make purchases of books and movies at a Costco in Colorado while on vacation.

Ludwig was placed on administrative leave in 2008 when the allegations first surfaced when a new supervisor noticed the petty cash was not balancing. The FBI brought in a forensic analyst to look at the banking records and confirm the suspected fraud. The Quinaults also brought in their own independent analyst. Ludwig was terminated before her 30-day suspension was up.

The FBI agent’s statement says he interviewed Ludwig for 45 minutes in an effort to find out what happened. But, after 45 minutes, Ludwig asked the agent to leave her house.

Sentencing will happen at 1:30 p.m. on Aug. 20 at U.S. District Court in Tacoma. A judge’s order says that Ludwig will be allowed to call witnesses to her defense in an effort to reduce her sentence.

Quinault President Fawn Sharp said that a performance audit back in 2007 recommended the Quinault Indian Nation begin to organize and build structure within its finance division.

“Our former accounting practices rendered the Nation very vulnerable to theft, corruption, and embezzlement,” Sharp said this morning. “In 2008, we began to implement the performance audit recommendations that led to the discovery of criminal activities and financial irregularities. Once discovered, we moved quickly and harshly to hold staff accountable. We thank the US Attorney’s Office for working, in partnership, with the Quinault Indian Nation to seek and find justice for this abominable crime.”