- Associated Press - Monday, March 3, 2014

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - A trial is set for Tuesday in Great Falls for a former Oklahoma State University professor accused of helping embezzle federal money from a Blackfeet program for troubled youth.

Gary Conti faces charges that include conspiracy to defraud the U.S., wire fraud, false claims, theft of federal property, money laundering and bankruptcy fraud.

He has pleaded not guilty. His attorney, Josh Van de Wetering, did not return a call for comment Monday.

Federal prosecutors say the leaders of the Po’Ka Project sent $475,000 in grant money to a business owned by Conti, the project’s national monitor.

Conti kicked back more than $230,000 of that money from 2008 to 2011 to accounts belonging to those leaders, Francis Onstad and Delyle “Shanny” Augare, prosecutors said.

Conti previously told FBI officials the money was meant to be donations to the Blackfeet community and his goal was to return any extra money he received from the project for the community good, according to court records.

Onstad, Augare and two other people who worked on the project have pleaded guilty to charges related to the defrauding of the program, which received $9.3 million from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services over six years starting in 2005.

Onstad, Augare and Dorothy May Still Smoking are scheduled to be sentenced on June 5.

Administrative assistant Charlotte New Breast was given a probationary sentence in February and ordered to pay $50,000 in restitution.

A sixth defendant, Katheryn Sherman was expected to plead guilty on Monday.

Conti, who filed for bankruptcy in Oklahoma court in 2009, also is charged with concealing from those proceedings the assets and property he received from the Po’Ka Project.

The Po’Ka Project, which is now defunct, was meant to become a reservation-wide children’s mental health system run and funded by the tribe.

But the tribe could not keep up with increasing in-kind contributions meant to gradually transfer the program to Blackfeet control, and the program’s leaders doctored claims, records and invoices to keep the federal money flowing, prosecutors said.


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