CLEVELAND — A former Oberlin College instructor and an activist for indigenous people pleaded guilty to stealing funds from the American Indian Education Center of Cleveland, where he was executive director.
Robert Roche, 70, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and theft of government funds in the U.S. District Court of Northern Ohio on May 16. His trial had been scheduled to begin this week.
According to the indictment, which was filed last summer, Roche embezzled grant money from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for Native Americans. The money was aimed at providing Native American communities with resources to support mental health and wellness.
Roche, who was an instructor of American Indian History at Oberlin College in 2005-06, was a proponent of getting rid of the “Indians” name and Native American logo at Oberlin Schools in 2006. He also has said the Cleveland Indians’ Chief Wahoo mascot is racist, according to an Associated Press story.
He spoke at an Oberlin City Council meeting last summer on behalf of his organization in favor of changing Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day.
The charges stated Roche “knowingly and intentionally” conspired to steal funds from this “Circle of Care” grant.
The center was awarded $302,340 through the grant in 2011 and another $308,040 in 2012, but the indictment notes that Roche’s organization did not get all the money because the government placed it in “high risk” status.
The indictment states that from 2011 to 2013, Roche and Craig McGuire of McGuire & Associates embezzled about $183,703.55 by moving money into personal accounts. Authorities said Roche took $77,097 of that for personal use.
Roche is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 29.