Havre Daily News - News you can use

By Tim Leeds 

Burns sentenced in Rocky Boy case

2 months in prison, 4 months home detention, 3 years probation


A federal judge Thursday sentenced the first of a series of people who have pleaded guilty in a complex, interrelated set of plea agreements dealing with corruption and embezzlement at Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation.

Thursday, U.S. District Judge Brian Morris sentenced Hunter Burns, who owned Hunter Burns Construction, to two months in prison, followed by four months of home detention, followed by another three years of probation.

Morris ordered Burns to pay a $100,000 fine along with other defendants and sentenced his company to 42 months probation and to pay a $25,000 fine along with Burns. He continued Burns’ release on his own recognizance pending the U.S. Bureau of Prisons taking custody of him.

Hunter pleaded guilty April 2 to filing a false claim on a government-funded project. He signed off on a plea agreement resolving charges in two cases. It was alleged that he and then-business partner James Howard Eastlick Jr., Hailey Belcourt and her husband, Chippewa Cree Construction Corp. CEO and chief contracting officer Tony Belcourt, conspired in a scheme of bribery, fraud and embezzlement to take money the federal government appropriated to build a regional water system.

His company also pleaded guilty in one case, and the remaining charges against Burns and his company were dismissed under the plea agreement.

Eastlick Jr., who worked as a psychologist at Rocky Boy and was a former head of its health department, pleaded guilty to charges in one Burns case and to charges in other cases and is slated for sentencing Aug. 15.

Hailey Belcourt pleaded guilty to a charge in one Burns case and to charges in other cases and is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 14, as is Tony Belcourt, also a former state representative and former Chippewa Cree Tribe Business Committee member, who pleaded guilty to charges in other cases.

Eastlick’s sister and father, Tammy Leischner and James Howard Easltick Sr. of Laurel, pleaded guilty in another Rocky Boy embezzlement case and Leischner and her former husband, Mark Leischner, face related charges in two other cases.

Chippewa Cree Business Committee member John “Chance” Houle originally was indicted April 2, 2013, along with the Belcourts, the Leischners and Eastlick Sr., but those charges against him were dropped last September.

Houle was indicted June 19 on new fraud and embezzlement charges along with former Business Committee Chair Bruce Sunchild and another defendant or defendants whose name or names have not yet been unsealed.

Former Havre school board Chair Shad Huston, a partner of Eastlick Jr.'s, is scheduled to change his plea Aug. 14 in yet another case.


Reader Comments

bearpaw1 writes:

what a pathetic sentence! this man knew what was going one, sign on the bottom line, here's your $100,000 we'll take the rest! If this is JUSTICE our federal court system is PATHETIC! If you want to get RICH just come to Rocky Boy steal millions all you'll get is 2 months!

kev writes:

That is a pathetic sentence. The thieves on the reservation will continue to steal until real justice happens. This guy made out with hundreds of thousands of dollars for a 2 month sentence? That's better money than what he would have made working. What a joke.

Victor writes:

Hunter Burns Construction was awarded a $1.7 million construction contract four months after the kickbacks to Belcourt. Minus the $125,000 in fines and kickbacks, the construction company still made out with a million plus in funds meant for the tribe. Since no restitution is in order, the Tribe should go through Tribal Courts and force the construction company in doing some free work for tribe like fixing up the roads, housing, landscaping, etc. Come on boys, show your backbone.

LOL writes:

Wow if the government was going to spend all those man hours and time. Wasted all those federal dollars to investigate and bring these individuals to justice. Just to slap them on the wrist. What a joke. Well I guess it looks good in the papers anyways. All these individuals being indicted to justify more funding for the justice department. Way to go Cotter at lease you got more funding for your department and personal through numbers. Numbers justifies dollars.

Huh writes:

A $1000,000 fine that means he has just secured a job with the Chippewa Cree Tribe for life...Our past felons are all working good paying jobs and those who have obeyed the law still cant get a job with the Chippewa Cree Tribe.

Iknewit writes:

2 months doesn't seem that harsh and if I am reading this correctly the $100,000 fine is not his sole responsibility but rather as on of many contributors. My guess is that the cost of prosecution will be way more than ever collected. Personally I would gamble making 100's of dollars illegally if I know I would get off with 2 months if caught

ucanthidebehind writes:

Well, I would suggest that the community of Rocky Boy get together a petition to make them pay every cent of that money back to this project for our communities. No shame whatsoever. We have so much golly thieving ungrateful acts against our own, what happened to our help one another and respect one another. These people that knowingly, willingly committed crimes for personal gain, need to return everything that was taken. Because it is costing the gov't to house the thieves, n e way. that's al

hangemhigh writes:

Why doesn't he pay restitution? The same goes for the others. As for the enr olled offenders disenroll them. Curious to know if any will apologize to the people of Rocky Boy. Tony Belcourt, Chance Houle, Bruce Sun child and that hypocrite Eastlick should be sentenced to the maximum to set an example for any current and future Tribal leaders. Never mind what some want HDN keep running these stories and embarrass these idiots if they can be that is.

moneytalks writes:

what about all the ill gotten gains, property, cash, personal items. The judge should make restitution a big part of sentencing, in addition to the fines. Let the tribal council and their cronies know that they will have to give it back. Crime should not PAY.

alfredosoto writes:

Great news but i think others will get off with light sentences


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