Native leader charged with theft
Prosecutors are charging the former head of Sealaska corporation with theft after the disappearance of over $21,000 set aside for the defense of subsistence rights.
Robert “Bob” Loescher, 66, was supposed to be arraigned in court on Thursday on a charge of a theft in the second degree, but a clerical error meant that a summons could not be served by Alaska State Troopers in time for the hearing. The hearing was then taken off the court calendar.
According to charging documents, the Grand Camp of the Alaska Native Brotherhood and Alaska Native Sisterhood decided in September 2013 to file charges against Loescher after he failed to respond about the repayment of missing funds.
In 2012, Loescher was head of the Alaska Subsistence Defense Fund and Alaska Traditional Foods Security Council which were set up to protect Southeast Native subsistence rights. Money for the fund was seeded by Grand Camp, Sealaska, and the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska. One of the Defense Fund’s first uses was to pay for expected expenses of the case of state Senator Albert Kookesh and three other men who were charged with overfishing their subsistence sockeye permits near Angoon (See related story: ANB fund will defend Kookesh, other subsistence cases).
According to the affidavit filed by assistant District Attorney Angie Kemp, Loescher withdrew $21,515 from fund accounts, but the money was not discovered as missing until 2013 when a new Grand Camp treasurer started work. Grand Camp officials said that Loescher did not have authorization to take funds or withdraw money from the accounts, and he would’ve needed to ask the treasurer to prepare a recommendation to the board.
Sasha Soboleff, 1st Grand Vice-President of ANB/ANS Grand Camp, told Juneau Police Investigator Russ Haight that they met with Loescher twice about the disappearing funds. Loescher allegedly admitting taking the money, and said he would repay it. But Loescher also said that he was justified in taking the money. It is unclear exactly when he made those last comments.
Soboleff declined to comment when contacted on Friday.
Loescher could not be reached for comment on Friday as phone numbers for his home and his business appeared to have been disconnected. His license for his economic development consulting business Loescher and Associates was involuntarily dissolved by the State Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development in June 2013. The last biennial report filed for his limited liability corporation was filed in 2009.
Court records also indicate that Loescher has had a total of $45,600 in judgments entered against him in at least four lawsuits filed by various creditors in 2009 and 2010.
A supplemental summons is being issued for a December 5th arraignment in the subsistence fund theft case.
Loescher started working for Sealaska corporation in 1978 and ascended to the position of vice-president of natural resources and, later, president and chief executive officer from 1997 to 2001. He also worked as executive director of Tlingit and Haida Regional Housing Authority and Tlingit and Haida Housing Development Corporation, and served as president of the Juneau Tlingit and Haida Community Council. He also served as a City and Borough of Juneau Assemblymember from 1970-1972 and he is still listed as a CCTHITA Tribal Judge.