Not guilty pleas entered again in Rocky Boy embezzlement
March 5, 2014
A string of indictments alleging embezzlement at a north-central Montana Indian reservation continue to work their way through federal court, with one set of defendants again pleading not guilty and one in another case scheduled to be sentenced Friday.
Havre businessman and former school board Chair Shad Huston and Tony and Hailey Belcourt Tuesday again pleaded not guilty to charges.
Tony Belcourt awarded disaster money contracts to Huston, who, the indictment alleges, paid money back to the Belcourts in return.
Belcourt, a former tribal council member and former state legislator, was CEO of Chippewa Cree Construction Corp. while it was lead contractor on projects to repair damage from the 2010 flood.
The three pleaded not guilty Oct. 29 to all charges. The prosecution filed superseding indictments with new information Feb. 20, and they were arraigned again Tuesday.
A trial on the charges is set for April 22.
The case is one of seven, so far, involving allegations at Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation stemming from investigations of The Guardians Project, spearheaded by U.S. Attorney for the District of Montana to fight fraud and embezzlement in Indian Country.
Indictments also have been filed on other reservations including the Blackfeet, Fort Peck and Crow reservations.
One of the cases involving Rocky Boy is scheduled for sentencing Friday. In December, Garcia Duran pleaded guilty to billing personal expenses to the Rocky Boy Health Board while working as a supply technician. He faces up to 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release.
The first charges filed last year also were against Tony and Hailey Belcourt and against Laurel residents James Howard Eastlick and his daughter and son-in-law, Tammy and Mark Leischner. A trial in that case is scheduled for May 12.
That indictment originally included Chippewa Cree Business Committee member and former chair John “Chance” Houle, but the charges against him later were dismissed at the request of the prosecution.
Charges also are pending against the former CEO of the tribal clinic, Fawn Tadios, including allegations she embezzled money she used to visit her husband, Raymond “Jake” Parker, in prison where he was serving a sentence for embezzling from the tribe while chair of its council.
The trial on the charges against Tadios is set for April 7.
The trial on separate embezzlement charges filed against another employee of the Health Board, Wilford Harlan “Huck” Sunchild, also is a setting for April 7.
Another set of charges, against Tony and Hailey Belcourt and James Howard Eastlick Jr. of Havre and Hunter Burns of Box Elder, is scheduled for April 15.
Yet another set of charges filed against Tony Belcourt and Eastlick Jr. and Burns, is scheduled as a setting for May 20.