Theft case dropped against former Sealaska executive

Bob Loescher
Former Sealaska CEO Bob Loescher arrives for his arraignment on theft charges in May 2014. (File photo by Matt Miller/KTOO)

An embezzlement case against former Sealaska Corp. executive Robert ‘Bob’ Loescher has been dropped after suggestions that prosecutors botched their presentation to the grand jury.

Loescher, 67, was accused of taking $21,515 in funds managed by the Alaska Native Brotherhood and Alaska Native Sisterhood Grand Camp. The funds were part of the Alaska Subsistence Defense Fund and Alaska Traditional Foods Security Council, two nonprofits devoted to the protection of subsistence rights in Southeast Alaska. Loescher was managing the groups when the money allegedly was taken between April and October 2012.

He answered the charges last December and in May, appearing at the Dimond Court Building in a wheelchair.

Loescher’s attorney, Julie Willoughby, called for dismissal of the indictment in a 21-page motion filed in August. Willoughby wrote that the case stemmed from a “fundamentally flawed grand jury proceeding” that included a questionable and misleading presentation by the prosecutor in the case, identified in court documents as Assistant District Attorney Angie Kemp.

Willoughby referred to what she calls “rambling” and largely “irrelevant” testimony by Sasha Soboleff, vice president of the Alaska Native Brotherhood Grand Camp. Soboleff was a key witness before the grand jury, but Willoughby wrote that he did not sit on the board of either subsistence nonprofit and did not understand their relationship to ANB/ANS. She also pointed to Soboleff’s testimony before the grand jury in which he described Loescher as saying he had done “no wrong,” but Soboleff’s comments were erroneously transcribed so that Loescher seemed to admit that he had “done wrong.”

She wrote that Loescher was not bound by the bylaws of the Grand Camp, which may have restricted compensation and reimbursements to himself. She noted that neither Grand Camp treasurer James Llanos or Soboleff appeared to know whether the Alaska Subsistence Defense Fund and Alaska Traditional Foods Security Council successfully obtained nonprofit 501 (c) (3) status. Llanos did not know if Loescher had board approval for drawing funds from the groups’ bank accounts. Bylaws that would specifically prohibit Loescher’s compensation and reimbursement of expenses from the ATFSC were never properly enacted. Such bylaws for the ASDF were never even presented as evidence by Kemp.

In addition, Willoughby noted there was missing exculpatory evidence in the form of invoices and cleared checks suggesting Loescher reimbursed himself or others for legitimate expenses related to the funds, and it was done routinely without formal approval of both groups’ boardmembers.

On Oct. 3, Attorney General Michael Geraghty signed off on a single page order dismissing two charges of felony theft against Loescher based on information from the grand jury investigation and a follow up investigation by Juneau Police.

A December trial has been cancelled, and the case is closed.

Loescher worked for Sealaska, the regional Native corporation for Southeast, for more than 22 years, rising to the position of chief executive officer before he left in 2001.

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