Sunchild convicted on embezzlement charges
First trial from Guardians Project investigations
The first defendant in a series of indictments alleging fraud and embezzlement involving Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation, in a case with charges involving the clinic at Rocky Boy, has been convicted in a trial.
After deliberating just more than 1½ hours, a jury in federal District Court in Great Falls convicted Wilford Harlan “Huck” Sunchild after a two-day trial on all counts: theft from an Indian tribal government receiving federal funds, theft from a health care facility and theft from an Indian tribal organization.
U.S. District Judge Brian Morris set sentencing for July 25 in Great Falls. Sunchild faces up to 10 years in prison for each of the first two charges and five years for the last.
The charges came from an investigation by the Guardians Project, initiated by U.S. Attorney for the District of Montana Mike Cotter, in which federal agencies collaborate in investigations into claims of fraud and embezzlement on Montana Indian reservations.
Several people indicted on charges of fraud or embezzlement involving federal funds at Rocky Boy have pleaded guilty in plea agreements, as defendants from other reservations have, with others still scheduled to go on trial.
The government proved in its case against Sunchild that he diverted funds between Feb. 2, 2012, and March 23, 2013, into an account while he was director of the Wellness Center of the Chippewa Cree Tribe’s clinic and accessed them for his own use.
Sunchild set up an account at Native American Bank with his name for a Nike grant to provide shoes and other apparel at reduced cost to promote youth athletics and improve health. He was provided a debit card he could use to access the account.
In February 2012, he deposited an $18,772.16 check for the Wellness Center into the account, and accessed the money through automatic teller machine withdrawals, many in local casinos in and around Havre and on the reservation.
The prosecutors said that though the account was opened in January and almost $30,000 had been deposited by March, the account was overdrawn.
Sunchild refused a plea agreement offered by the federal government.