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Wednesday, 24 October 2012 00:00

Tribal employee charged with embezzlement

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An Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians employee was recently charged with embezzlement during a 15-year period.

Amanda Leigh Smoker, 33, was arrested on Oct. 9 by the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office after being charged with one count of embezzlement from an Indian tribal organization, one count of wire fraud and one count of money laundering — all federal offenses.

Smoker pleaded not guilty at her arraignment on Oct. 10 and was released on a $25,000 unsecured bond.

According to court documents, Smoker is accused of stealing or misappropriating money from the tribe from 1996 until December 2011 when she worked as an administrative assistant at Cherokee Tribal Emergency Medical Services. Smoker no longer holds that position.

The maximum penalty for embezzlement is five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The maximum penalty for wire fraud is 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine. Money laundering carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $100,000 fine.

Smoker could not be reached, and her court-appointed attorney Andrew Banzhoff did not return call for comment. Smoker is set to go to trial at 9 a.m. Dec. 3 at the federal courthouse in Bryson City.

Principal Chief Michell Hicks declined to comment.

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