Federal Emergency Management Agency officials surveyed flood and storm damage on the Rocky Boy's Reservation in Montana in August 2010. Photo: FEMA

Chippewa Cree Tribe received $420M in federal funds over five years

Documents filed in yet another corruption case involving the Chippewa Cree Tribe of Montana contain some enlightening figures.

According to government attorneys, the tribe received $420.4 million in federal funds between October 2007 and September 2012. A significant portion came from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act after the Rocky Boy's Reservation suffered from severe storms and flooding in 2010.

Tribal leaders, employees and associates squandered a bulk of that money through various theft, embezzlement and bribery schemes for which two dozen people have pleaded guilty.

But the corruption didn't end there. According to the documents, the tribe's online lending business served as a virtual piggy bank for executives and leaders, including former chairman John "Chance" Houle, who is among those who have pleaded guilty.

Neal Rosette and Billi Anne Morsette served as executives for First American Capital Resources and, later, Plain Green Loans. They have pleaded guilty to stealing about $1.2 million from the tribe, which they have agreed to pay in restitution.

According to offers of proof that were filed in court, Rosette and Morsette secured the funds through an agreement that was kept secret from the tribe. Houle approved the arrangement on behalf of the tribe even though he wasn't authorized to do so, government attorneys wrote.

Rosette, Morsette, Houle and a fourth person -- James Howard Eastlick Jr. -- all received payments and kickbacks from the scheme, according to the documents. Eastlick also has pleaded guilty for his role in the crimes and is serving a 108-month prison sentence, The Havre Daily News reported.

The widespread fraud on the reservation has put Montana on nationwide list of judicial districts with the most government corruption prosecutions. The cases have been prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office through an effort known as The Guardians Project.

Get the Story:
Two plead in Rocky Boy lending company case (The Havre Daily News 12/3)
Two plead guilty in tribal lending corruption case (AP 12/2)

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