When Charles Fourcloud was hired as finance director of the Passamaquoddy Tribe’s Pleasant Point Reservation in the spring, he neglected to tell his new employer a few things.
His birth name was Arlynn E. Knudsen, the local police now say, the same Arlynn Knudsen who in 1997 pleaded guilty to conspiracy, money laundering, income tax evasion and, with four others, embezzling $2.66 million in federal money from the Lakota tribal institution in South Dakota, where he was vice president for business affairs.
Thereafter, he appears to have changed his name multiple times, and been hired for financial oversight positions by tribal institutions in Washington, Texas, Maine and possibly other states.
But in eastern Washington County, his past appears to have caught up with him.
On Sept. 24, Fourcloud was fired from his job at Pleasant Point, one of two Passamaquoddy reservations, a day after police arrested him in the tribal government’s parking lot on a charge of driving under a suspended California license. Pleasant Point Chief Clayton Cleaves banished him from the reservation for misrepresenting his identity.
Tribal officials said they checked Fourcloud’s references before hiring him but did not do a criminal background check. They are now investigating their finances for the four months that Fourcloud was in charge of their $11 million budget, but there are no early indications of wrongdoing, said Cleaves.
“We don’t yet know at this point, but the investigation is ongoing and we have appropriate people probing our records just to see if anything was transferred, withdrawn or misappropriated without the consent of out tribal government,” Cleaves said Wednesday.
“We don’t want people of that character to be in charge of our financial affairs or, for that matter, any kind of work of this caliber,” Cleaves said.
Tribal police began unraveling Fourcloud’s background on Sept. 19, after tribal council members asked them to investigate him. A council member said Fourcloud had aroused suspicion by telling conflicting stories about his past and by asking that his name and photo be omitted from the tribe’s newsletters and website. When staff members did Internet searches for his name, they came up with nothing.
Searches of criminal databases, using Fourcloud’s Social Security number, quickly uncovered many of his aliases and his criminal past, said Pleasant Point Police Chief Pos Bassett.
“He has legally changed his name multiple times, and it seems that he doesn’t want to be the same person for more than a year,” Bassett said. “We’re still trying to tie up the loose ends of this guy’s past because he seems to be doing this in multiple towns all across the U.S. using different names.”
Fourcloud’s attorney, John Churchill of Calais, said his client wasn’t available for comment and he hadn’t been in contact with him for a couple of days. He said the only charge against Fourcloud that he knows of is driving without a valid license.
A clerk at U.S. District Court in Calais said Fourcloud is scheduled to appear in court on that charge, a misdemeanor, Nov. 5. Bassett said any additional charges depend on the results of an ongoing police investigation.
Bassett said there is no doubt that Fourcloud and Arlynn E. Knudsen are the same person.
Knudsen was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for the crimes against Ogala Lakota College, a tribal college on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota’s Shannon County, which at the time was the nation’s poorest county.
According to federal court records and a New York Times article, Knudsen and his co-conspirators stole $2.66 million from the college by setting up bogus companies that were paid for supplies and services they never delivered. They then transferred funds to other accounts in an attempt “to disguise and launder the embezzled money and to conceal and cover up the conspiracy and the violations of federal law,” says the end-of-trial statement of facts in the federal court records.
After leaving prison, Knudsen started changing his name. A legal notice published in 2009 in a Spanish-language newspaper in Santa Clara County, Calif., noted that Arlynn Knudsen would change his legal name to Arlynn Eaglestar on July 28 of that year.
Later that year, the newsletter of the South Puget Intertribal Planning Agency in Washington state mentioned that the agency had hired Arlyn EagleStar – a slightly different spelling – as its new chief financial officer. In an informal photo of the agency’s staff accompanying that article, a Passamaquoddy tribal source identified a man they say is Fourcloud. A call to the agency was not returned Wednesday.
The former website of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas mentions having hired “Mr. Arlyn Eaglestar of San Jose, California” after “an extensive interview process.” Nobody authorized to discuss Eaglestar’s tenure with the Livingston, Texas-based tribe was available for comment Wednesday.
Passamaquoddy tribal council member Ed Bassett said Fourcloud impressed the tribe’s hiring committee, with his qualifications and his cultural background.
“He was able to speak well and knowledgeably about his field and he also was Lakota or Sioux, I believe, and knew how to speak his tribal language,” Ed Bassett said. “When people do that, there’s a certain amount of respect paid to them because they are culturally connected with their communities.”
Chief Cleaves said the tribe followed up on Fourcloud’s references, and heard glowing reviews. “Everything came back positive,” Cleaves said. “Of course we don’t know who we were talking to. It could have been a partner in crime.”
Ed Bassett said the weakness in the system was a failure to do a criminal background check, although with the aliases he wonders if it would have come up clean.
“One thing I wish we had nationwide was some kind of alert system for people like this, because it seems like he may have had a pattern of going to little tribes and trying to gain their confidence,” he said. “Then maybe we could stop this kind of thing from happening elsewhere.”
Colin Woodard can be contacted at 791-6317 or at: