Eastlick Sr. to plead guilty in embezzlement
April 16, 2014
Another defendant indicted on charges of embezzling money from Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation is scheduled to change his plea.
James Howard Eastlick Sr. of Laurel requested the court allow him to plead guilty in a plea agreement he reached with the federal government. The agreement was not available as of this morning
U.S. District Judge Brian Morris set a hearing for the change of plea Monday in federal district court in Great Falls.
Eastlick is the latest in a series of defendants, accused of embezzling federal or insurance money to build a regional water system or replace the flood-destroyed Rocky Boy clinic, to agree to plead guilty.
His son, James Howard Eastlick Jr., who worked as a clinical psychologist at Rocky Boy and served as CEO of its health board, also is scheduled to plead guilty May 1.
Chippewa Cree Construction Corp. CEO Tony Belcourt and his wife, Hailey Belcourt, and Hunter Burns Construction owner Hunter Burns already have pleaded guilty.
Those defendants are charged in a string of indictments involving the Belcourts and Eastlick Jr., who is charged, related to defendants in or involved with business interests of other defendants in six embezzlement indictments.
Tammy Leischner, Eastlicks Sr.’s daughter, and her husband, Mark Leischner also are charged. Tammy Leischner has asked for a deadline extension for filing a plea agreement until more information about what her brother is providing investigators implicating her actions comes out.
Havre businessman and former Havre school board chair Shad Huston also is indicted for embezzling, as is former Rocky Boy health board CEO Fawn Tadios, in a separate indictment not implicating the Belcourts, Eastlick family or Burns.
The first of the defendants accused of Rocky Boy embezzlement convicted in trial, Wilford Harlan “Huck” Sunchild, is scheduled for sentencing July 25.
The cases are tied to political turmoil out at Rocky Boy that spilled over to local court.
Ken Blatt St. Marks was removed from office as chair of the Chippewa Cree Tribe’s Business Committee last March by the other members of that tribal council who said it was due to his neglect of duty and gross misconduct.
St. Marks has maintained that his removal was due to his cooperating with federal investigators looking into allegations of fraud and embezzlement.
After he was removed from office and before the first indictment was unsealed, Tadios requested an order of protection, saying St. Marks was sexually, verbally and emotionally abusive to her in her position as CEO of the clinic and health board.
St. Marks maintained that Tadios was retaliating for his cooperating with investigators and for his trying to find out what happened to money missing from the clinic and health board budgets.
Justice Court Judge Audrey Barger granted the order of protection, and St. Marks appealed the decision. An order on that appeal still is pending.
St. Marks filed as a candidate in the election to replace him as chair, and was first not allowed by the Chippewa Cree government to run, then allowed, then taken back off, and finally ran when a tribal judge said he could not be kept off the ballot.
St. Marks won the special election last July, but the Business Committee has refused to confirm the results and seat him as chair.