Belcourts, James Eastlick Jr., Hunter Burns plead not guilty
New charges of embezzlement at Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation have been filed in federal court, with four people and a corporation pleading not guilty in federal court in Great Falls.
Former state Rep. Tony Belcourt, D-Box Elder, also a former Chippewa Cree Tribe Business Committee member, his wife, Hailey Belcourt, psychologist James Howard Eastlick Jr., Hunter Burns and the Hunter Burns Construction company of Box Elder pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges of embezzling federal funds, theft from a tribal government receiving federal funds, two counts of bribery, one of offering and one of accepting, and a count of fines for a corporate defendant.
The Belcourts and Eastlick’s father, sister and brother-in-law, James Howard Eastlick, Tammy Leischner and Mark Leischner, all of Laurel, also pleaded not guilty Thursday to revised charges in a previously filed case alleging embezzlement of federal stimulus act funds at Rocky Boy.
According to the indictment on the new charges, Hunter Burns and James Howard Eastlick Jr., who was 49 percent owner of Hunter Burns Construction, bribed the Belcourts to award contracts on the Rocky Boy’s/North Central Montana Regional Water Project to the company.
Belcourt is president and CEO of the tribally owned Chippewa Cree Construction Corp., which is the primary contractor on the water project.
The previously filed indictment alleges that the Belcourts, the Leischners and James Howard Eastlick used a complex scheme of dummy corporations, contracts and payments to embezzle federal stimulus act money also allocated to the water project.