- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 2, 2015

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - Two former leaders of an online lending company owned by Montana’s Chippewa Cree Tribe have pleaded guilty to stealing money from the company and taking bribes from its Nevada-based partner.

Neal Rosette and Billi Anne Morsette entered their pleas Tuesday in Great Falls as part of a deal with federal prosecutors that calls for them to repay about $1.3 million.

Judge Brian Morris set sentencing for March 3.

They face a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison for accepting bribes and five years for conspiracy to embezzle tribal funds. Morsette also pleaded guilty to a charge of tax evasion and Morsette to willful failure to file a tax return.

Rosette and Morsette used to run Plain Green, a short-term Internet lender that charges high interest rates. They also ran the tribe’s first lending company, the now-defunct First American Capital Resources.

Prosecutors said they funneled more than $55,000 from First American to themselves and ex-Chippewa Cree tribal councilman John “Chance” Houle, who was previously convicted of corruption.

They also accused the pair of taking more than $1.2 million from Plain Green. That money is the amount they received from a Henderson, Nevada, company called Encore Services that was a partner in First American.

Encore had a contract, which the tribe later challenged as illegal, that entitled the company to a percentage of Plain Green’s revenues. Encore officials would then send a portion of that money back to a consulting company owned by Morsette, Rosette and another tribal official, prosecutors said.

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