Attorney General Marty Jackley says that Richard Benda, the director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (Secretary of Tourism and State Development) when Mike Rounds was Governor, committed suicide by shooting himself in the stomach with a shotgun, by leaning it against a tree and pushing the trigger with a stick. His body was found in a shelterbelt on October 23rd of 2013, and the media discovered Richard Benda was under Federal investigation regarding EB-5 investments. A month later on November 22nd the Attorney General released the autopsy result as a suicide. We found out he had a gambling problem, and a friend of Benda’s said he didn’t like to hunt but that state investigators said they were specifically looking at his case as either a hunting accident or a suicide. On December 12th the Attorney General, who was appointed by Mike Rounds and has endorsed him for the U.S. Senate seat, refused an open records request from the media, on January 2nd he denied the appeal for the media to view the investigative file, and on May 13th the Office of Hearing Examiners rejected the request to see the results of Richard Benda’s death investigation.
The Feds are investigating the EB-5 money machine in South Dakota and the media has done a good job over the past several months of reporting on it, but the only hard evidence we have about the Federal investigation is one of eight Federal subpoenas for state documents, that was made public during a state “investigation.” In April of 2013 Governor Daugaard ordered a state investigation by the Attorney General into $550,000 that was misdirected from a Future Fund Grant received from the Office of the Governor under Rounds as well as three reimbursed travel vouchers that Richard Benda double-billed the state for when he was Mike Rounds’ GOED director. After releasing Richard Benda’s autopsy report, the Attorney General concluded his investigation, deciding it was a waste of time to look into what happened to the missing money after admitting that neither he nor any attorney’s from his office ever questioned Richard Benda about the missing money or the double-billed travel vouchers before his untimely death.
Of the three double-billed travel vouchers that the federal grand jury requested documentation on, one was for reimbursement for a plane ticket (two with the double-billing) to the 2010 Las Vegas SHOT Show at Sheldon Adelson’s Sands Expo. The voucher was submitted for reimbursement with a credit card slip with the wrong amount from November of 2009, probably from one of Benda’s trips to China (the other two double-billed travel vouchers were for trips to China). Now either the federal grand jury is concerned about the misappropriation of a few hundred dollars of state tax dollars or they are investigating someone Benda was travelling with, someone involved in that misappropriation of state funds. U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson won’t answer questions about whether or not there is still a federal investigation ongoing, and Senator Grassley’s office says they don’t know the status of the federal investigation. We need answers, and current U.S. Senate candidate Mike Rounds could at least give us an idea of where to look for them, because he attended the 2010 Las Vegas SHOT Show with Richard Benda. Former Governor Mike Rounds was interviewed by CORBON Ammunition at the event. Because Mike Rounds was there, he knows who Richard Benda’s travel partner was and he knows who Benda double-billed the state for travel expenses for. That person is highly likely to be under Federal investigation and Mike Rounds needs to tell us who that person is before there are any more grim developments in this case.
In other news, Independent U.S. Senate candidate Gordon Howie, who previously ran for Governor, says he will only take his name off the ballot for the general election if Representative Stace Nelson wins the primary, and Representative Stace Nelson says that if he loses the primary election he will support Gordon Howie for the general election.