Nikishna Polequaptewa–a Garden Grove resident and Hopi Indian who has earned presidential and congressional recognition for his activism–was named last week as a defendant in a federal lawsuit alleging computer fraud and trade secret stealing.
According to the lawsuit, Irvine-based Blue Stone Strategy Group, LLC., in April hired Polequaptewa–the founding director of the American Indian Resource Center at UC Irvine and a recipient of a leadership award from the National Indian Gaming Association–as a senior strategist.
But the honeymoon at the successful consulting firm for Native American tribes didn't last long.
Polequaptewa, a motivational speaker, abruptly announced his resignation during a mid-November company conference in Fort Lauderdale, and was then allegedly caught deleting or transferring data and changing passwords for the company's electronic databases, according to the lawsuit filed in Orange County's Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse.
Company officials summoned Florida law enforcement authorities to Polequaptewa's hotel room, where they claim he admitted he'd been accessing Blue Stone's computers, according to the lawsuit.
The court filing also asserts that "Polequaptewa misappropriated Blue Stone's confidential and proprietary information, trade secrets, customer lists, consumer financial data, and other pertinent information by improper acquisition [without the company's consent]."
Company officials, who claim at least $50,000 in damages to repair their computer network, are demanding a jury trial.
U.S. District Court Judge Cormac J. Carney will preside over the case.
Lawyers for Polequaptewa have not yet responded to the complaint.
In 2008, UC Irvine Chancellor Michael Drake gave the activist–a 2005 graduate of the university–the "Living Our Values Award" for his work encouraging youth on reservations to attend college.
"We want to create an American Indian presence on campus and in the community," he told school officials at the time. "It makes American Indian students feel less alone."
President Bill Clinton included him in the 2009 "Native American 40 under 40 Award" list.
He's also won "Special Congressional Recognition" from U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer and U.S. Representative Ken Calvert.