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.