Bellingham man gets prison for embezzling $30k from Makah tribe

A former Makah tribal leader from Bellingham must serve six months in prison for embezzling $30,000 from his tribe, a federal judge ruled Friday, May 13.

Ryland Chad Bowechop, 38, admitted in a plea deal he used a Makah tribal credit card for personal expenses from 2010 to 2014. Bowechop, an elected member of the Makah Tribal Council, had been given the card for council-related travel.

He used the card for movie tickets, clothes, and cash advances at casinos, according to charges filed in federal court. He also was receiving a per diem from the tribe at the time.

Bowechop pleaded guilty in February to conversion from an Indian tribal organization.

“I am ashamed of what I did,” Bowechop wrote in a statement to the judge. “I wish that I could turn back the clock and handle things differently.”

U.S. District Judge Ronald B. Leighton sentenced him to six months in an Oregon prison. He must repay $30,000 in restitution to the Makah tribe.

Caleb Hutton: 360-715-2276, @bhamcaleb