Dances with Fraud
The desert has a way of playing tricks on the mind. From a distance, there appeared to be rolling, lush green hills — thicker and denser than the most perfectly manicured fairway at Pebble Beach. Yet, as I drove mile after mile on the pockmarked and rutted roads of the reservation in my “lowest government rate” rental car that was clearly ill suited for the endeavor, it became apparent that I wasn’t seeing forests, but rather the periodic piñon and scrub that jutted out from the stark white and gray rock faces against an endless expanse of cloudless pink and orange sky.
It seemed nearly impossible to fathom that just a week earlier I was sitting in my office in Jersey City, New Jersey, grading my students’ final examinations in my undergraduate white-collar crime course. Moreover, less than 48 hours later, I was receiving briefings from a spate of mid-level government officials at the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Headquarters in Washington, D.C., each seeking to impress upon me the challenges of managing environmental remediation and infrastructure enhancement projects from more than 2,000 miles away.
Isolation and rural settings were nothing new to me. Having spent nearly eight years with the National Park Service working in resource protection and environmental contractor fraud enforcement, I had grown accustomed to such venues — from the endlessness of Alaska’s Denali National Park to the impenetrableness ...