Minnesota Casino Thief Who Stole $315K From Tribe Receives Prison Sentence

Posted on: October 19, 2021, 11:12h. 

Last updated on: October 19, 2021, 11:51h.

A woman formerly employed at a Minnesota casino owned and operated by a Native American tribe will spend the next eight months in prison. She was convicted for embezzling funds from the resort property.

Minnesota casino Fortune Bay embezzlement theft
The front desk at Fortune Bay Resort Casino in Tower, Mn. The Minnesota resort, owned by the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa, has received justice in regards to a former employee who stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from the property. (Image: Fortune Bay Resort Casino)

Jennifer Lynn Boutto, 33, pleaded guilty in March to one count of embezzlement and theft of tribal funds. Through her employment at the Fortune Bay Resort Casino in Tower, Mn, Boutto admitted to stealing approximately $315,000 in cash from the tribal casino.

The Fortune Bay Resort Casino is the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa’s lone gaming property.

Yesterday, Minnesota US District Court Judge Eric Tostrud sentenced Boutto to eight months in federal prison, plus one year of supervised release. Boutto must also provide full restitution of the $315,739.87 that she stole from the tribe.

Fortune Bay is located less than 25 miles south of the Canadian border in Minnesota. The tribal casino features 800 slot machines, 12 blackjack tables, and a four-table poker room. The 173-room hotel and RV resort offers guests an indoor pool, a golf course, five restaurants, and cross-country trails ideal for snowmobiling in the winter and hiking during the warmer months.

Theft Uncovered

Fortune Bay Casino officials say Jennifer Boutto was hired as a receptionist at the tribal resort in 2008. She climbed her way to position of front desk supervisor within five years.

Under the role of front desk supervisor, Boutto was able to issue cash refunds to customers without approval from a supervisor or higher-ups within the casino’s operations. Between 2013 and 2019, federal prosecutors say Boutto wrote nearly 3,000 fraudulent cash refunds totaling more than $315,000.

Boutto wrote the illegal refunds against recently incurred customer invoices. But instead of patrons actually placing complaints and seeking refunds, Boutto wrote the grievances and pocketed the refunds herself.

The Department of Justice, which investigated and prosecuted the case, did not reveal how the theft came to light.

Ms. Boutto took advantage of the managerial position she had been trusted with and selfishly stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa,” said Acting US Attorney W. Anders Folk. “This brazen theft of Tribal funds deeply impacted the Tribe’s ability to provide services to its own members.

“Today’s sentence signals the seriousness of Ms. Boutto’s crimes,” Folk added.

Tribe Thanks Prosecutors

Bois Forte Tribal Chairwoman Cathy Chavers thanked the Justice Department for successfully bringing Boutto to justice, and ordering financial restitution.

“Far too often, crimes are committed against tribes in Indian Country, and the punishment is a slap on the wrist,” Chavers stated. “We applaud Judge Tostrud for realizing the seriousness of the crime committed. Boutto serving time in federal prison reinforces the fact that crimes like these won’t be tolerated.”

The Bois Forte Band of Chippewa, like every other tribe in the United States, was greatly impacted by COVID-19. Just last week, the remote Minnesota tribe confirmed four new COVID-19 cases on the Bois Forte Reservation.

The coronavirus continues to spread among Native Americans in Minnesota. The state’s most recent seven-day moving average case rate per 100,000 people is just 20 for white people, but nearly 120 among tribal populations.

Business at Fortune Bay suffered throughout 2020 and into this year. In hopes of preventing another outbreak that results in the casino’s temporary closure, Fortune Bay is requiring all resort employees to become vaccinated by November 1.