- Associated Press - Thursday, December 18, 2014

GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) - A former University of Great Falls student will spend six months in prison for fraudulently obtaining federal student financial aid, authorities said.

U.S. District Judge Brian Morris on Wednesday also sentenced Brenden James Leischner, 24, to five years of probation and ordered him to pay about $82,200 restitution to the U.S. Department of Education, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Leischner also was ordered to pay $2,500 for court-appointed counsel.

Leischner, the son of Mark and Tammy Leischner, of Laurel, pleaded guilty earlier to misdemeanor federal student aid fraud as part of a plea agreement, The Billings Gazette reported (https://bit.ly/1wm3wpG).

Mark and Tammy Leischner also have pleaded guilty to multiple felonies, including embezzlement of federal money, bankruptcy fraud, obstruction of justice and federal student aid fraud, stemming from a large corruption investigation involving the Chippewa Cree Tribe on the Rocky Boy’s Reservation. The couple is to be sentenced in March.

Leischner’s uncle, James Eastlick Jr., also is to be sentenced in March on convictions related to the corruption investigation. And Leischner’s grandfather, James Eastlick Sr., was sentenced in September to a year in prison for his role in the embezzlement of $311,000 of federal money.

Brenden Leischner was accepted to the University of Great Falls in the fall of 2009 as a criminal justice major.

While enrolled, Leischner and his parents completed multiple applications for federal student aid in which they hid “significant income” that would have disqualified them for student and parental loans and grants, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

Prosecutors say the Leischners received more than $1.1 million into their accounts during their son’s college enrollment. The money was not declared on any application for student aid.

The undeclared money included funds from an embezzlement of the Chippewa Cree Rodeo Association and from another kickback scheme involving Tony Belcourt, a former state legislator and ex-CEO of the Chippewa Cree Construction Corp. The corporation receives Bureau of Reclamation funding and oversees contracts for the Rocky Boy’s rural water project.

Belcourt was sentenced this year to 7½ years in federal prison on theft, bribery and tax evasion charges for embezzling money meant for construction projects.

Brenden Leischner, who now lives in Indio, California, filed for his own student aid and claimed to be married, even though there was no evidence he and his girlfriend were married, prosecutors said. Independent married students receive more federal aid than single students.

Authorities said Brenden Leischner also did not disclose he had received $105,000 in a medical malpractices settlement. The investigation found that Brenden Leischner bought himself a Hummer and went on an extended vacation to Hawaii with his girlfriend, prosecutors said.


Information from: The Billings Gazette, https://www.billingsgazette.com

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