Alleged Fake Indian in Cleveland Indians $9 Billion Lawsuit Admits Stealing from Indians

My culture is not your $9 billion lawsuit.

Robert Roche, a Chiricahua Apache and director of the American Indian Education Center, is planning to file a federal lawsuit in late July against the Cleveland Indians organization. Roche, who is also the leader of the group People Not Mascots, says the lawsuit will challenge that the team’s name and Chief Wahoo logo are racist.

“We’re going to be asking for $9 billion and we’re basing it on a hundred years of disparity, racism, exploitation and profiteering,” Roche told WEWS-TV. “It’s been offensive since day one. We are not mascots. My children are not mascots. We are people.”

People who steal from people are the finest people there are.

A Cleveland man known for his opposition to the Cleveland Indians' "Chief Wahoo" mascot has admitted to stealing more than $77,000 in federal grant money meant to help Native Americans, federal prosecutors said Wednesday. 

"This defendant stole from taxpayers and betrayed the Native American families he purported to help," U.S. Attorney Justin E. Herdman said. "He took tens of thousands of dollars designated for mental health and wellness programs and put the money in his own pockets."

Robert Roche, 71, pleaded guilty to two counts of theft from programs receiving federal funds.

According to prosecutors, Roche and consultant Craig McGuire conspired to divert money from the American Indian Education Center (AIEC) in suburban Parma, where Roche served as executive director.

Investigators say McGuire submitted false applications to the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). According to prosecutors, McGuire falsely claimed that the center offered an afterschool program for 500 children and had a "wellness department."

Roche has been under attack for a while by Native American activists. Especially in the American Indian Movement of Ohio. And here's where it gets complicated.

Philip Yenyo is the co-director of Ohio AIM. As if to hammer home the division mentioned above, the group's Facebook profile picture is that of a local American Indian with Clyde Bellecourt.

By phone, Yenyo accuses Roche — who he's already called a "scumbag" in online correspondence — of fabricating his identity. Yenyo has been trumpeting the "investigation" of the Indian Center (which the Ohio Attorney General's office can't confirm, deny or comment on) as a kind of poetic justice.

"His real name is Jose Roche," Yenyo tells me over the phone. "And we've got the birth certificate to prove it."

"Really?" I say, genuinely surprised. "Could you send it to me? Fax it maybe?"

"I don't have it in my possession," Yenyo says. "But we've got some people who are looking into it."

Roche, resisting the urge to roll his eyes when I ask about his identity, provides me with his birth certificate: Robert Joseph Roche. Born 5/03/1947 at St. Ann's Hospital in Cleveland. He says he has it at the ready because the "He's not Indian!" accusation is one of NAIMI's favorite refrains, along with "He's not AIM" and "He's an agent!" which was especially popular during the hyper-paranoid '70s and '80s.

Who knows where the truth lies. But (not counting Elizabeth Warren), there have been a number of these cases on the left. Most notably, Ward Churchill. And it also fits with the pattern of the most vocal activists being the most dubious.

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