Tadios trial starts Wednesday; brief says current, former tribal council members under investigation
The former top official of the Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation health care system is set to go on trial for embezzlement charges Wednesday, and a pretrial legal brief says two tribal council members are under investigation as well.
Fawn Tadios, former CEO of the Chippewa Cree Health Board, has argued that former council Chair Bruce Sunchild and council member John “Chance” Houle, himself a former council chair, both approved her use of federal funds in the instances for which she is charged, a trial brief filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office says.
But, the brief says, though they both have been subpoenaed, they might be unwilling to testify for the defense or for the prosecution.
“Both of the witnesses Tados relies upon for her position that the taking of public money for private use and benefit was approved and common practice — Chance Houle and Bruce Sunchild — are themselves subject to federal criminal investigation into allegations of political and public corruption,” the brief says.
Tadios is accused of using federal funds — both in travel requests and, in some cases, using tribal charge cards on the same trips, double-billing the tribe — allocated to the Rocky Boy health care system to make six visits to her husband, Raymond “Jake” Parker, while he served a 16-month sentence in a prison camp in Yankton, South Dakota, for embezzling from the tribe.
Parker told investigators that much of the $58,938.23 he put on a tribally issued and paid-for credit card was for personal use.
Parker used the card in Box Elder, Havre, Great Falls and other places in Montana, as well as Las Vegas, Denver, Spokane, Wash., Post Falls, Idaho, and Reno, Nevada, to make purchases at hotels, gas stations and restaurants and for $36,708.94 in cash advances.
Raymond Parker is now listed as the director of the transit department at Rocky Boy.
An order by U.S. District Judge Brian Morris appointing counsel for Tadios noted that her husband makes in excess of $50,000 a year.
Sunchild took over as chair of the council after Parker resigned May 23, 2011, one day before pleading guilty in U.S. District Court in Great Falls to embezzling.
Sunchild lost in the primary the next year, with Ken Blatt St. Marks ending up winning the general election.
St. Marks was removed from office by the council in March 2013, due to “neglect of duty and gross misconduct” including employee harassment, sexual harassment, financial misconduct, unauthorized expenditures and illegal employment practices, the council said in a press release at the time.
After repeated unsuccessful attempts to keep him out of the election to fill the chair position vacated by his removal, St. Marks won the special election and a court battle that tried to invalidate the results. The council has since refused to seat him as chair.
St. Marks has maintained that his removal — as well as a protection order requested by Tadios — all stem from his investigating corruption and embezzlement at the reservation and his cooperating with federal officials in their investigations.
Houle was indicted April 18 of last year, but those charges were dismissed at the request of the prosecution in September.