Havre Daily News - News you can use

By Tim Leeds 

Parker pleads guilty to theft from tribe

 


Havre Daily News/Nikki Carlson

Raymond "Jake" Parker Jr., left, former Chippewa Cree chairman, leaves the federal courthouse in Great Falls Tuesday afternoon after pleading guilty to embezzling from the tribe.

The former leader of Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation pleaded guilty this morning to embezzling from his tribe, while the tribe continues to look for what he next step in finalizing its leadership will be.

Raymond "Jake" Parker Jr. pleaded guilty in the federal courthouse in Great Falls to theft from a tribal organization, an offense he committed while chairman of the Chippewa Cree tribal council, the Business Committee. He resigned the post Monday.

Parker used a credit card, issued for official tribal use, from May 2009 to November 2010, racking up nearly $60,000 in charges that he later told investigator mostly were for personal use.

Parker told U.S. Magistrate Keith Strong that he "started traveling and using it (the credit card) as I saw fit for my personal expenses."

Strong set sentencing for Sept. 15, after a pre-sentence investigation is complete.

Parker's attorney, Daniel Donovan, said his client has been cooperating with the investigation since December.

He said his client agreed to pay full restitution.

Strong said based on Parker's demeanor in the courtroom and his cooperation with authorities, he saw no reason to put Parker in jail while he awaits sentencing.

The $58,938.23 was used to make purchases at hotels, gas stations and restaurants and for $36,708.94 in cash advances.

Havre Daily News/Nikki Carlson

Raymond "Jake" Parker Jr., left, former Chippewa Cree chairman, leaves the federal courthouse in Great Falls Tuesday afternoon after pleading guilty to embezzling from the tribe.

The purchases and cash advances were made in Box Elder, Havre, Great Falls and other places in Montana, as well as Las Vegas, Denver, Spokane, Wash., Post Falls, Idaho, and Reno, Nev.

Parker, who was a council member in the 1980s, was again elected to the body in 2000. He was selected as chair for 2008-12, and was leader of the reservation during last year's flood disaster.

After making an apology to the tribal council Monday morning, Parker submitted his resignation, effective immediately.

Parker told the council Monday he was sorry for his actions and the problems those actions caused and will continue to cause the tribe, his fellow Business Committee members and the tribal membership.

Before Tuesday's court hearing, Vice Chair Bruce Sunchild Sr. assumed the duties of interim chair, saying he would work to continue to move the tribe's business forward.

"This is certainly a setback for us, but we have to continue striving to move forward and not be distracted by this," he said. "There are going to be some great challenges ahead, as the federal government has significantly reduced the federal budget, and this not only severely ties the tribe's hands from doing routine business but also makes it very difficult to cash flow tribal programs and functions."

He added that the council wishes the best for Parker.

"Jake is not only our fellow tribal Business Committee member but he is our friend and part of our family here on the reservation," Sunchild said. "We will remember him as a chairman who looked after the best interests of the tribe and always had his imprint on every issue facing the tribe, especially our recovery efforts from last year's disaster."

Havre Daily News/Nikki Carlson

A man shoos the press away as Raymond "Jake" Parker Jr., left, former Chippewa Cree chairman, leaves the federal courthouse in Great Falls Tuesday afternoon after pleading guilty to embezzling from the tribe.

A tribal spokesman said that it has not been decided whether a new election for the chair's seat will be held, adding that the council is awaiting a decision on an appeal of the 2010 election.

Stacey Small, who failed to advance from that primary, filed a complaint saying one of the candidates had been convicted of a felony offense and completed his sentence two years earlier and was not eligible to run under tribal election laws.

The tribal election committee said that candidate — who had served a deferred imposition of sentence and had the charge struck from his record — did not have a felony record.

Tribal Appellate Judge Torian Donahoe of Missoula said May 4 that her decision on Small's appeal of the tribal court's ruling against his complaint was forthcoming.

 

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