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.