Jury finds self-proclaimed Indian chief guilty - KSWO 7News | Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Jury finds self-proclaimed Indian chief guilty

Wichita_The self-proclaimed leader of a group that claims to be an American Indian tribe was found guilty Wednesday of defrauding immigrants by falsely telling them tribal membership would make them U.S. citizens.

Malcolm Webber was found guilty on six charges arising from the unrecognized tribe's efforts to sell tribal memberships. The federal court jury found him not guilty on one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States.

Following the verdicts, the jury returned to court to hear arguments in the government's efforts to seek forfeiture of proceeds from the alleged criminal acts.

Prosecutors argued that Webber, 70, of Bel Aire, marketed memberships in the Kaweah Indian Nation by telling immigrants the tribal identification documents could be used to get Social Security cards, U.S. passports, health care benefits and driver's licenses.

Webber's defense attorney, Kurt Kerns, argued that his client had no criminal intent and only sought to help undocumented immigrants become legal residents.

The defense called no witnesses during the trial.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Brent Anderson told jurors the Kaweah Indian Nation is Webber's invention.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs ruled in 1984 that the Kaweah group had no historical link to American Indian tribes and that Webber - who calls himself Grand Chief Thunderbird IV - is not an Indian.

Federal prosecutors charged the tribe and 11 people last year. Charges have been dismissed against the tribe and two defendants, one remains a fugitive and seven others have pleaded guilty to reduced charges.

Robert Visnaw, a special agent with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, testified that agents seized Kaweah enrollment rolls with the names of 13,142 people, plus an additional 2,000 to 3,000 applications that had not yet been processed.

Visnaw testified he had compared 1,000 of those memberships with ICE databases, and it appeared only 4 percent to 5 percent were lawful residents or citizens.

Roxanna Hegeman, AP Writer © 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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