Overton James, longtime governor of the Chickasaw Nation, was charged with fraud and extortion Tuesday by a federal grand jury which accused him of taking nearly $100,000 in kickbacks from contractors who did $12.5 million in business with the tribal housing authority.
The 11-count indictment carries a maximum punishment of 70 years in prison and $20,000 in fines plus restitution.
James, who has been governor of the Chickasaws for 22 years, allegedly received kickbacks from Shawnee contractors Kraig Kendall and Horace Thompson through phony invoices billed over a three-year period by James' Chief Pallet Corp., a firm located at Roff.
The alleged kickbacks were paid in return for James' influence over the housing authority, the indictment states. As governor, James had the authority to appoint and remove authority members.
Attempts to reach James at his Ada home for comment Tuesday night were unsuccessful. He was said to be doing repair work at some rental property and couldn't be reached by telephone.
The indictment came less than a week after Claudell Overton, former Chickasaw housing authority director and Norman High School basketball coach, pleaded guilty to receiving kickbacks, including money and a new car, from the same contractors.
James is believed to have rebuffed a similar plea agreement offered by federal prosecutors.
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