The feds have themselves a juicy immigration fraud case in Kansas.  A self-proclaimed Indian chief with a record as a sex offender sold tribal memberships to illegal aliens, telling them that it would automatically make them American citizens.  His trial starts today, and so far the defense’s strategy appears to rest on convincing jurors that Malcom Webber didn’t know that the sale wouldn’t work:

When federal agents raided the offices of the Kaweah Indian Nation, Malcolm Webber told the arresting officer he had not committed fraud and was confused about how he could be arrested on “sovereign soil,” court documents show.

Now, almost a year later, Webber must defend himself against charges that he and his so-called tribe defrauded immigrants by claiming that tribal membership conferred U.S. citizenship. He is scheduled to go to trial Tuesday. …

Questions about the legitimacy of Webber’s tribe and his Indian ancestry have dogged the tribe and its self-proclaimed chief since its beginnings.

In its 1984 ruling against federal acknowledgment, the Bureau of Indian Affairs found that the Kaweah Indian Nation Inc. did not exist before 1980 when it was formed under the leadership of Webber, a non-Indian. The BIA called it an urban Indian interest group from Porterville, California, that had no relation to the aboriginal Kaweah Indians.

The BIA finding documented the tribe’s contentious history, noting it was formed as a result of an internal dispute with a similar group formed by Webber in 1976, the United Lumbee Nation of North Carolina and America, Inc. It also noted his tumultuous relationship with Oatman, Arizona, residents and his conviction there on a sex-related charge.

The feds arrested him as customers lined up at his door, wanting the opportunity to buy tribal memberships at $600 a pop.  Even if Webber’s version of the Kaweah Nation was legitimate, tribal membership would not confer American citizenship anyway.  Selling the memberships was an outright fraud, especially given the dubious nature of the claims from “Chief Thunderbird IV”.

Seven other conspirators have already pled guilty to the charges.  Webber is, at the moment, the only one that will face a trial, and he could wind up in prison for a very long time.  He is charged with mail fraud, conspiracy to defraud the US, harboring illegal aliens, and other related crimes.

If nothing else, it should be an entertaining trial.