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By Tim Leeds 

New charges against Houle unsealed


June 24, 2014

Charges against Houle unsealed

by Tim Leeds

Federal charges against a Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation tribal council member have been unsealed, although indictments in two cases remain sealed until his codefendants appear to enter a plea.

John “Chance” Houle, a member of the Chippewa Cree Tribe’s Business Committee, and a former chair of that committee, pleaded not guilty this morning in federal Districrt Court in Great Falls to all charges in three cases against him.

Houle was indicted last year in a case alleging he was involved in a conspiracy to defraud and embezzle from the federal government. Those charges against him were dismissed in September, but all other defendants in that case have pleaded guilty, in that or other cases, or face new charges.

A co-defendant of Houle did not appear for the arraignment this morning as scheduled. The clerk of federal court said the name of co-defendants could not be released until they appear in court.

Houle’s attorney, Jason Holden, told the Havre Daily News after the hearing that his client would not comment on the case.

In the case with the indictment unsealed, where Houle is the only defendant, he is charged with bribery of an official of an Indian tribal government receiving federal funding and with obstruction of justice/manufacturing false evidence.

The indictment alleges Houle awarded contracts to Hunter Burns Construction, in which Havre psychologist James Howard Eastlick Jr. was a partner at the time, and accepted $306,987 in payment from the company and Eastlick, accepting the money directly or through other parties. It also alleges he falsified and backdated a loan document during the federal investigation to legitimize payments received from Eastlick.

Eastlick's partner in the company, Hunter Burns, pleaded guilty in a plea agreement, as did Eastlick.

In one of the cases in which the indictments have yet to be unsealed, Houle is charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States, embezzlement from Indian tribal organizations and larceny within special maritime jurisdictions. The definition of special maritime jurisdictions includes lands reserved by the United States government

In the other sealed indictment, Houle is charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States; embezzlement from Indian tribal organizations; larceny within a special maritime jurisdiction; destruction, alteration or fabrication of records during a federal investigation, and influencing or injuring an officer, juror or witness.


Reader Comments


aimprez59521 writes:

The rest of the council should be impeached for not doing anything when they knew a full 6 to 8 months ahead of time that stealing was going on but did nothing and allowed a few of them to keep drawing pay right up to the end of the line for them. Isnt that collusion and conspiracy in the REAL world? It sure is! I would step down if i were in this present council and never show my face in public again and stay out of politricks.

UnbridledGreed writes:

How many of us watched that Rodeo, all the money, the actors involved, and didn't wonder if there was money getting diverted. I think everyone did whether they admit it or not. I know I did. The arrogance, the you -can't -touch- me attitude, the arrogant wives, spending like nobodies business, it all added up way before these indictments came down. Rodeo'ing like the Pros, that costs money, too bad it was the People's money that they spent.

DonnieSue writes:

There are no checks and balances for what the council members do, Especially Chance as his mother-in-law runs the finances of the CCT with an iron fist. Nobody poops there until she says so. That is my humble opinion! Take away all his assets as well as the other hooligans involved. Give us back our cattle, I want to be a cowboy too.

Victor writes:

Learn from this. Ex-Felons are waiting in the wings, chomping at the bits, prepping for a seat on the council. Do not allow this to happen again. It was a costly lesson, compromising the tribe's future. What's left of the council's integrity should be directed at reinstating the elected chair and moving forward on reuniting the tribe again.

moneytalks writes:

will this joker please go away, or will the other members protect themselves and houle, by hiding behind tribal sovereignty for the few, while the common folk go with-out.

yep writes:

Business Committee 'uh, Mr. Houle, will you please step down?' Mr. Houle 'no' 'Uh, okay' 'you guys. look, i'll step down just make sure you stop by' 'uh, okay'

powerofpeople writes:

I hope that the council members that remain and who meekly followed this mans lead have the decency to not seek reelection and to never run for council again. How can any of you ever look a tribal member in the face again. Shame on all of you for being cowards.

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