A Laurel couple facing charges that they embezzled federal money allocated to a water project at Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation now face charges they failed to report that income when they filed for bankruptcy in 2012.
Mark and Tammy Leischner pleaded not guilty in federal District Court in Billings last week to charges of bankruptcy fraud and false bankruptcy declaration. The case was assigned to newly appointed federal Judge Susan Watters. No hearings in the case had been scheduled as of this morning.
According to the indictment, when the Leischners filed for bankruptcy in 2012, they concealed receiving nearly $800,000 the federal government had allocated to the Rocky Boy’s/North Central Montana regional water project.
The Laurel couple; Tammy Leischner’s father, James Howard Eastlick; former Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation tribal council member and former state Rep. Tony Belcourt, D-Box Elder, the CEO of the tribal Chippewa Cree Construction Corp .; and his wife, Hailey Belcourt, are facing fraud and embezzlement charges in federal District Court in Great Falls related to the case in Billings.
In the embezzlement case, the government charges that the defendants used a series of companies, including Tammy Leischner’s consulting business and a Billings pipe company of which Tony Belcourt had a controlling interest, to shuffle and embezzle money intended to create a water system that would supply nearly 30,000 people in north-central Montana.
Chippewa Cree Construction is the prime contractor for the water system.
John “Chance” Houle, a member and former chair of the Chippewa Cree tribal council, was originally charged in that case. The federal government later dropped the charges against Houle.
Other charges related to embezzling federal funds have been filed against the Belcourts and some other local residents.
A case alleges that former Havre School Board Chair Shad Huston and the Belcourts conspired to embezzle money allocated to replace the tribal clinic damaged in flooding in 2010.
Another two cases allege that James Howard Eastlick Jr. of Havre — son of James Eastlick of Laurel and brother of Tammy Leischner — and Hunter Burns used Hunter Burns Construction of Box Elder, in which the two were partners, to defraud the federal government and embezzle funds. Tony Belcourt is a defendant in both cases and Hailey Belcourt is a defendant in one.
In a separate case, Fawn Tadios, CEO of the Chippewa Cree Health Board, was charged with embezzling funds from the board and the tribal clinic, while, in another separate case, embezzlement charges were filed against Health Board employee Garcia Duran.