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Former Eastern Pequot chairman arraigned on larceny charge

By Brian Hallenbeck

Publication: theday.com

Published August 14. 2013 1:00PM   Updated August 15. 2013 3:05PM

Brian Geer, the former Eastern Pequot chairman who resigned in June, told state police detectives he depleted the tribe's treasury of more than $60,000 to support a drug-addicted woman and her daughter, paying for the woman's Norwich apartment, groceries, clothes and a car over a six-month period.

Geer, 47, of 633 Lantern Hill Road, North Stonington, was arraigned Wednesday in New London Superior Court following his arrest on a first-degree larceny charge. He was released on a $100,000 bond set by Judge Karen A. Goodrow, who continued his case to Sept 10.

Geer resigned as tribal chairman amid reports that he had embezzled from the North Stonington tribe, which has struggled for decades to gain federal recognition. Elected chairman in July 2012, he also had been serving as the tribe's treasurer, an office he previously held.

An arrest warrant affidavit released Wednesday indicates Geer told state police detectives who interviewed him at Troop E in Montville that he had used tribal funds to pay for the woman's treatment at a drug rehabilitation facility and to otherwise help her and her child.

Geer first began using tribal funds in late December 2012 or early January 2013, when the tribe's so-called land account contained about $56,000, according to the affidavit. A separate operating account contained about $3,000 to $4,000.

Over six months, 22 withdrawals were made from the land account in amounts ranging from $25 to $9,000, the affidavit says. As of May 22, the land account had a balance of $2.89. On June 5, the operating account's balance was $20.72.

Detectives believe Geer used a debit card to remove the funds.

In June, Brenda Geer, Brian Geer's sister and the tribe's corresponding secretary at the time, told Dennis Jenkins, then the tribal vice chairman, that her brother "had spent all the tribal funds," according to the affidavit.

Brenda Geer told Jenkins she confronted her brother after the tribe received shut-off notices from utilities servicing the tribe's office in the Holly Green Plaza on Route 2. She then discovered the tribe's bank accounts had been wiped out.

Brenda Geer told detectives her brother said "he was in this mess because of a girl ... he had met while working maintenance at the Wauregan Hotel (in Norwich) ..."

Jenkins told detectives Brian Geer admitted to councilors that he had taken more than $60,000 from the tribal accounts, and that Geer said "he was trying to save a girl's life who was hooked on heroin."

Geer stated that he would make "full restitution" to the tribe, Jenkins told detectives.

Since voting to pursue criminal charges against Geer, the tribal council has conducted annual elections but has yet to choose a new chairman. Jenkins, who did not seek re-election as vice chairman, is serving as acting chairman.

In an email message sent late Wednesday night, Jenkins said he would not discuss details of the investigation. He said that aside from the state’s prosecution of Geer, the tribe would “proceed with additional sanctions according to an internal process.”

Brenda Geer, who ran unopposed for vice chairman in last month's elections, declined comment when approached at the Broad Street courthouse in New London. Brian Geer could not be reached.

The Eastern Pequots are the second southeastern Connecticut tribe in recent months to be plagued by embezzlement charges involving tribal officials.

Last month, a federal jury found a former chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe guilty of embezzling more than $100,000 in tribal funds from 2007 to 2009. Michael Thomas, convicted on three counts, faces sentencing in October. His brother, Steven Thomas, also has been accused of stealing from the tribe.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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