County attorney seeks to file charges against tribal council member facing federal charges
A prominent Chippewa Cree Tribe official is now facing state action while charges in federal court are pending.
The Hill County Attorney’s Office Monday requested permission to file two felony charges against Chippewa Cree Business Committee member John “Chance” Houle alleging he forged a signature on documents, stealing another’s identity in the process, signed for the purchase of a truck from a Havre car dealer using funds a witness said “was basically part of a kickback scheme by John ‘Chance’ Houle, and a way to conceal the origin of the cash,” the motion says.
Houle pleaded not guilty in federal District Court in Great Falls last Tuesday in three new cases stemming from a federal investigation into fraud, conspiracy and corruption at Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation.
Federal charges filed against Houle in April 2013 were dismissed by the prosecution in September. Five other defendants charged in that case either have pleaded guilty or face new related federal charges.
Former tribal council Chair Bruce Harold Sunchild also pleaded not guilty to federal charges last Tuesday, although the indictment of Sunchild and two of the three indictments against Houle have not been unsealed, apparently pending a co-defendant or co-defendants appearing in court.
In the pending state charges, the motion says that on May 28, 2010, Wade Colliflower withdrew a $15,000 cashier’s check from an account belonging to the Bear Paw Indian Rodeo Association. He told investigators that it was a part of Houle’s kickback scheme.
Colliflower told investigators that Houle said the truck would be for Houle’s use as a feed truck.
Houle negotiated that day for the purchase of a 2004 Ram 3500 pickup truck, the document says, and signed an agreement for a $19,089 purchase using Tiffany Houle’s information, including a falsified signature, the document says.
He paid for the truck with the check and cash, the document says.
Feb. 27, 2014, Tiffany Houle showed an investigating federal agent a document with her signature, which was “significantly different than Tiffany’s signature on the invoice,” the motion says.
During that interview, Houle requested an attorney and the agent terminated the interview and was unable to ask any more questions, the motion says.
A salesperson of the car dealership said he only spoke to Chance Houle and Neal Rosette during the negotiations for the sale, and never spoke to Tiffany Houle, the document says.
“Chance Houle signed all the documents and drove the truck off the lot,” the motion says.
The county had not as of this morning filed charges against any of the others named in the motion. No related federal charges against any of the parties had been unsealed as of this morning.