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Ex-firefighter given prison sentence of 30 months

MINNEAPOLIS — Eric Makowski-Budrow, a former Brainerd paid on-call firefighter, was sentenced to 30 months in prison Thursday for his role in embezzling more than $600,000 from the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe. 

Makowski-Budrow, 31, Brainerd, was sentenced in federal court in Minneapolis by U.S. District Court Judge David S. Doty on one count of embezzlement from a tribal organization. Makowski was charged Nov. 24, 2009, and pleaded guilty on Dec. 7, 2009.

Makowski-Budrow was as a paid on-call firefighter for Brainerd from Aug. 1, 2006, until Oct. 4, when he was unanimously fired by the Brainerd City Council for his role in the tribal embezzlement. Makowski-Budrow also previously served on the Brainerd Planning Commission and Housing and Redevelopment Authority but resigned from those positions after the city started investigating his federal crime. 

In his plea agreement, Makowski admitted that between 2005 and June 13, 2007, he, in his capacity as a construction project manager for Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, coordinated fraudulent and excessive payments to contractors. He then arranged kickbacks from a vendor to enrich himself.

In order to further the scheme, Makowski admitted he rigged bids and created false documents. He also misused a commercial account funded by the band at Home Depot stores in order to purchase things he was not authorized or entitled to receive. He then used those items  to improve the property of others.

On Jan. 4, 2011, Judge Doty also sentenced a second defendant, Jason Allen Heinlen, 33, Belle Plaine, to five years of probation for aiding and abetting the embezzlement. Heinlen was charged on April 1, 2009, and pleaded guilty on April 17, 2009.

In his plea agreement, Heinlen admitted receiving cash and other property belonging to the band, knowing it had been embezzled. Furthermore, he admitted he intended to use the money and property for his own personal benefit as well as the benefit of another.

This case was the result of an investigation by the U.S. Department of Interior-Office of Inspector General and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys James E. Lackner and Robert M. Lewis.

MATT ERICKSON may be reached at or 855-5857.