One of Ohio’s most vocal protesters against the Cleveland Indians Chief Wahoo mascot has pleaded guilty to stealing more than $77,000 in federal funds meant to benefit Native Americans, a report says.
Robert Roche, 71, pleaded guilty to two charges of stealing the federal funding, according to Eric Heisig of Cleveland.com.
Roche was arrested for embezzling grant money from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The money was awarded to the Parma-based American Indian Education Center, the group Roche heads.
A federal investigation found that the sports logo protester diverted the funds to pay his personal expenses. He also made false statements in the application for the grant funds, prosecutors said.
Roche can get as much as 16 months in prison for the theft, according to court documents.
The now convicted activist has been a loud voice against the Indians Chief Wahoo:
Roche, who is Chiricahua Apache Indian, has been a vocal advocate for the need for more resources for Native Americans. He has also been a well-known face in the movement to rid Cleveland of Chief Wahoo, the controversial mascot of the Indians the team is phasing out. He has had a lower profile since his indictment.
But even as Roche has made a name for himself as an advocate for Native Americans, he is now guilty of stealing money that was supposed to go to support mental health and wellness programs for Native American children and families.
“This defendant stole from taxpayers and betrayed the Native American families he purported to help,” U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman said in a statement issued after the hearing.
Roche was featured in a 2014 video where he confronted Indians fans calling them drunks and arguing that the Chief Wahoo mascot was racist:
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.