By Elizabeth Zach, staff writerGavel

A former nonprofit president who stole $4 million in college scholarship money slated for very poor Native American students was sentenced to more than three years in prison on Monday.

Brian J. Brown was found guilty of mail and wire fraud and transactional money laundering during his tenure with National Relief Charities, which offers financial support to Native American communities, particularly on remote reservations.

According to court records, Brown created the American Indian Education Endowment Fund and together with National Relief Charities board member William R. Peters, funded the new non-profit with $4 million between 2006 and 2009. Brown took more than $3 million for himself and Peters took about $1 million. Meanwhile, Brown presented National Relief Charities with false tax statements, suggesting that Native American students were receiving the money.

The case has forced National Relief Charities to explain to donors that the organization is still worth investment. Its current president Robbi Rice Dietrich told the judge in Brown’s case that employees at the nonprofit had spent 1,300 hours correcting public perceptions about the charity in the wake of Brown’s betrayals.

“It is one thing to steal,” she said. “It is another thing to steal from the poorest of the poor.”

To read more about the case, go here: