The Chippewa Cree Tribe’s Business Committee at Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation said a council member is back to work now that the U.S. government has dropped charges alleging he embezzled federal stimulus act dollars.
“Mr. John Chance Houle … has returned to his duties as a member of the Chippewa Cree Business Committee,” the tribal government said in a statement released Thursday and sent to the Havre Daily News after it went to press Friday.
Houle was one of six people charged with 17 counts related to allegations they laundered and embezzled money allocated to the Rocky Boy’s/North Central Montana Regional Water Project. Those charged include Chippewa Cree Construction Corp. CEO Tony Belcourt, a former Business Committee member and ex-state representative; his wife, Hailey Belcourt; and three Laurel residents, James Howard Eastlick and his daughter and son-in-in-law Tammy and Mark Leischner; Chippewa Cree Construction is the lead contractor on that project.
The federal government dropped the charges against Houle, but a U.S. attorney working on the case said it will proceed with the case against the other five defendants. The case is scheduled to go to trial Nov. 12 in the federal court in Great Falls. The attorney, Carl Rostad, said he could not comment on why the charges against Houle were dropped.
“Mr. Houle had asked the Chippewa Cree Business Committee to be placed on leave without pay to address the charges against him,” the tribal government release said. “With the clearing of charges, Mr. Houle has returned to his position as a full working member of the Chippewa Cree Business Committee.”
Once the indictments were unsealed after the defendants pleaded not guilty to all charges in May, the Business Committee said in a press release that all tribal employees charged were placed on unpaid leave.
The contact listed by the Business Committee on the press release had not responded by printing deadline this morning to a request for information on the names of all people who were placed on unpaid leave and if anyone still was on unpaid leave.