Whitecap Dakota First Nation's stake in new hotel cut in half

First Nation's former accountant charged with stealing more than $1-million dollars. Now, plans for a 159 room hotel have been delayed.

Multi-million dollar theft wipes out reserve's savings

The Dakota Dunes Hotel was originally scheduled to open in 2015. (Whitecap Development Corporation)

Theft of money from a successful First Nation has delayed a plan for a hotel in the community.

RCMP believe former Whitecap Dakota First Nation accountant, Hugo Gallegos, stole more than $1-million from the reserve over a four year period. According to Chief Darcy Bear, the theft has left the entrepreneurial community reeling.

Bear said the First Nation is in the process of picking up the pieces, including the Dakota Dunes Hotel.

The plan was to open the 159 room, full-service resort hotel with a spa, pool, restaurant and conference facilities, in 2015.

Chief Darcy Bear. (CBC News)

 Now, Bear said the theft coupled with design complications has led to delays.

"You have a personal savings account and somebody comes along and takes that savings account and you had intentions to use those for certain projects moving forward, that is what it is like for us."

Bear said the theft has cut the reserve's stake in the hotel in half, from 44 per cent to 22 per cent, leaving stakeholders to step in to provide extra money.

"We're very fortunate, we have a lot of good partners that have stepped up to the plate," Bear said.

The hotel was originally designed to be built into a hillside on the reserve, adjacent to the Dakota Dunes Casino. Bear said those plans have also presented challenges that required expensive workarounds.

"It will still be built, to a four-star status, but it will be more of a Saskatchewan four-star," Bear explained. "What we were seeing was probably more of a seven-star hotel before, with they way some of the features were."

Bear told CBC News the First Nation will have a better handle on the extent of the delay after the group holds a board meeting at the end of May. 

In the meantime, Whitecap Dakota has hired a new Chief Financial Officer and accounting staff and is currently in the process of developing a First Nation anti-fraud policy.