- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 19, 2014

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - A Havre businessman plans to plead guilty to charges that his company overbilled the Chippewa Cree Tribe by $116,000 to recover money used to pay off tribal officials who awarded a contract to demolish the reservation’s health center.

Former Havre school board member Shad Huston also will plead guilty to giving the tribal chairman a $25,000 SUV as a “reward” for past business dealings, an attorney for Huston said in court filings Monday.

Huston attorney Michael Sherwood said in the change-of-plea motion that Huston reached a plea agreement with federal prosecutors in a long-running corruption case on the Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation. The investigation already has netted the convictions of former state Rep. Tony Belcourt and several contractors and business partners who provided kickbacks on federal contracts.

Belcourt last week was sentenced to 7 ½ years after pleading guilty to theft, bribery and tax evasion. He is appealing the sentence to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Huston plans to plead guilty to theft from an Indian tribal government, bribery of an agent of a program receiving federal funds and failure to file a cash transaction.

A hearing has not yet been set in U.S. District Court in Great Falls.

In the court documents, Sherwood said Huston helped Chippewa Cree health director James Eastlick Jr. recover money that Eastlick had paid to unidentified tribal officials to influence those officials in awarding a contract to demolish the reservation’s flood-damaged health clinic.

The contract went to Hunter Burns Construction Co., of which Eastlick owned 49 percent.

At Eastlick’s direction, Huston’s trucking company submitted a $120,000 invoice to the Chippewa Cree roads’ department for work that amounted to about $4,000 in October 2011, Sherwood wrote.

The $116,000 was distributed to Eastlick, Huston and others, Sherlock said.

Eastlick pleaded guilty in May to bribery and tax fraud charges. He is scheduled to be sentenced in September. His attorney, Vernon Woodward, did not immediately return a call for comment Tuesday.

Huston also plans to plead guilty to bribery for giving Bruce Sunchild a $24,997 Chevrolet Suburban two days before Christmas in 2011, when Sunchild was the chairman of the governing Chippewa Cree Business Council.

“In making the gift, the Defendant intended to reward (as opposed to bribe) Chairman Sunchild in connection with a series of past business transactions with the Indian tribal government,” Sherwood wrote.

Sunchild has pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy to embezzle tribal money, theft and bribery. His attorney, Mark Meyer, declined to comment Tuesday.

Federal prosecutors said in their own court filing that they would recommend any prison sentences on the charges run at the same time and that Huston should be given credit for accepting responsibility for the crimes.