January 22

Fired Maine tribal official tries for new job in California

The man known in Maine as Charles Fourcloud, a convicted embezzler, faces charges after serving as the Passamaquoddys' finance director.

By Colin Woodard cwoodard@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

The man known in Maine as Charles Fourcloud is due to appear in court in Calais on Wednesday in connection with his brief tenure as the finance director of the Passamaquoddy tribe’s Pleasant Point reservation.

click image to enlarge

Charles Fourcloud, the former finance director of the Passamaquoddy tribe’s Pleasant Point Reservation.

Washington County Sheriff’s Department

But on Friday he was reportedly 3,000 miles away on a tiny, economically challenged Indian reservation nestled in the remote mountains of northeastern California where – under another name – he was interviewing for a job as a tribal chief financial officer.

Officials at the Fort Bidwell Indian Reservation were within hours of offering the job to Fourcloud – who had applied under the name Leon Knudsen – until one of them happened upon an Oct. 3 Press Herald article about his firing in Maine and his past as a convicted embezzler, according to tribal treasurer Denise Pollard.

“As soon as his photo appeared I knew it was him,” Pollard said Tuesday from her office at the reservation. “We’re not sure if we should call him and let him know we know about him.”

On Sept. 24, Fourcloud was fired from his job at Pleasant Point, near Eastport, shortly after tribal officials had discovered his true identity: Arlynn E. Knudsen, the onetime vice president of business affairs at a Lakota tribal college on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Reservation, who in 1997 pleaded guilty to conspiracy, money laundering, income tax evasion and, with four others, embezzling $2.66 million in federal money.

After serving a 10-year prison term, 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 elsewhere. He legally changed his name to Arlynn Eaglestar in 2009. Shortly thereafter, the South Puget Intertribal Planning Agency in Washington state hired an “Arlyn EagleStar” as its new chief financial officer.

He didn’t last long. In April 2010 he started a new job as the tribal administrator of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe in Livingston, Texas, and less than two months later was let go for “undisclosed reasons,” according to Tina Battise, a member of the tribe’s governing council, who on viewing a photograph of Fourcloud confirmed he was the same man they knew as “Arlynn Eaglestar of San Jose, California.”

In May 2013, Fourcloud was hired at Pleasant Point after impressing tribal officials with his knowledge of tribal finance and his commitment to and knowledge of his own Lakota tribal language. Passamaquoddy officials said they checked his references but did not do a criminal background check.

He was arrested in the tribal government parking lot Sept. 23 and charged with driving on an expired California driver’s license as officials investigated his tenure at the tribe.

Those charges have since been dropped, according to the clerk of the Calais district court, although the investigation into his activities in Maine continues.

His case will be taken up again there Wednesday, when a judge will consider his motion to have some of his property seized by investigators returned to him. The Calais district attorney said by email Wednesday morning that the state would oppose the motion because Fourcloud remains under investigation.

His attorney of record, Norman Toffolon of Machias, did not respond to a request for comment or information, nor did Calais district attorney Paul F. Cavanaugh II. The police chief at the Pleasant Point reservation, Pos Bassett, was unavailable for comment.

Pleasant Point tribal chief Clayton Cleaves and his deputy, Kenneth Poynter, said they were unaware of the new charges or any new developments in the case.

Fourcloud arrived at the remote Fort Bidwell reservation on Thursday, claiming to have flown in from his home in Alaska, Pollard said. He left after his interview Friday, she said, claiming he had to get back to Alaska immediately.

Tribal officials there were impressed with the applicant, who had a solid grasp of tribal financial reporting, glowing references, a charming, confident manner, “the regular Indian humor” and way of communicating, Pollard said. He claimed to have been employed for the past 24 years by the Chilkoot Indian Association in Haines, Alaska. They were in fact curious as to why such a highly qualified person would consider moving to their isolated community of 108, located four hours from the nearest commercial airport.

“Why would you leave a job you had for years to come to Fort Bidwell?” she said. “The only people who come to us are those who are wanted or can’t get work.”

Fourcloud (or, as they knew him, Knudsen) said he was divorced and that his only daughter lived in San Jose and he wanted to move closer to her and his grandaughter.

“As women, we were like, oh, OK,” Pollard said. “He had all the right answers.”

Like the Passamaquoddies, the Fort Bidwell Indian Community – which has 400 members overall – did not do a criminal background check of Knudsen/Fourcloud.

Fort Bidwell tribal council member Helen Jaramillo became suspicious of their “too good to be true” candidate, who had shown up at the reservation in person last Thursday, despite having been asked only to be available for a telephone interview. He said he had made $100,000 to $200,000 in Alaska, but was willing to accept their offer of only $75,000, Jaramillo recalls.

She wondered why his references did not include the Chilkoot tribe, where he had supposedly been tribal administrator for more than two decades.

“I called (the Chilkoots) and they said he didn’t work there, but that his name sounded familiar,” Jaramillo said. Shortly thereafter, the Chilkoots forwarded her the Press Herald article with Fourcloud’s photo. “That’s how we found out about it.”

“We have enough people ripping us off,” Pollard said. “We don’t need another.”

This story was updated at 4:22 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 22 to correct information about Fourcloud's Calais court appearance.

Colin Woodard can be contacted at 791-6317 or at:

cwoodard@pressherald.com

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