- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 21, 2014

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - In a story Jan. 17 about a sentencing hearing in an embezzlement case against leaders of a Blackfeet tribal youth program, The Associated Press reported erroneously the pleas of five criminal defendants. The defendants have pleaded not guilty to the charges, rather than guilty to the charges.

A corrected version of the story is below:

Blackfeet woman gets probation in fraud scheme

Blackfeet woman receives probation sentence in youth program fraud, embezzlement

By MATT VOLZ

Associated Press

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - A federal judge has sentenced a Blackfeet woman to three years of probation and ordered her to pay $50,000 in restitution for her role in a scheme to embezzle from a federally funded program for troubled youth on the reservation.

But U.S. District Judge Brian Morris did not follow prosecutors’ recommendation that Charlotte New Breast, 53, be placed under house arrest for six months when he sentenced her Thursday in Great Falls.

Morris placed no such restriction on New Breast, who previously pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting theft from an organization receiving federal grant funds.

New Breast was the administrative assistant for the now-defunct Po’Ka Project, which received $9.3 million in federal aid from 2005 to 2011 to help Blackfeet children with severe emotional disorders. The Blackfeet Indian tribe was supposed to provide $7 million in in-kind contributions over the last two years with the aim of it becoming a self-sufficient program run by the tribe.

But program leaders couldn’t meet with the requirements, so they began inflating some contributions and making up others, including $92,000 worth of planning services provided by the chief of staff of one of Montana’s two U.S. senators, according to prosecutors.

Nobody at the senator’s offices in Washington or Montana had even heard of the project, Assistant U.S. Attorney Carl Rostad said. Prosecutors did not say whether it involved Sen. Jon Tester’s or Sen. Max Baucus’ office.

The program’s leaders, including Francis Onstad and Delyle “Shanny” Augare, stole at least hundreds of thousands of dollars from the program through payments to and kickbacks from consultants and by falsifying travel and expense invoices, prosecutors have said.

Onstad, Augare and three other defendants are scheduled for a trial that starts March 10. They have pleaded not guilty to a total of 37 criminal counts.

Prosecutors had recommended no prison time for New Breast because she was a small player in the program and she provided “substantial assistance” to prosecutors.

New Breast’s attorney, Jeffry Foster, had agreed with the sentencing recommendation.

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