- Associated Press - Thursday, May 7, 2015

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - A Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation official was sentenced Thursday to six months in prison and six months home confinement Thursday after pleading guilty to stealing from a Chippewa Cree tribal rodeo association bank account.

U.S. District Judge Brian Morris also ordered Wade Colliflower to pay restitution of $44,750. Federal prosecutors had been seeking an 18-month prison term and for Colliflower to re-pay $149,000.

Prosecutors contended that of the $209,000 taken from the Bear Paw Indian Rodeo Association account over two years, only $60,000 was for legitimate rodeo expenses.

The case against Colliflower is part of a long-running federal investigation into corruption on Montana’s Indian reservations. As of last month, the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Guardians Project has resulted in the conviction of 17 other defendants on the Rocky Boy’s reservation and 24 more on the Blackfeet, Crow, Fort Belknap and Fort Peck reservations.

Ten additional cases are pending.

In this case, prosecutors say Colliflower and former tribal councilman John “Chance” Houle embezzled rodeo association money between May 2010 and June 2012. Colliflower, who was the vice president of the Chippewa Cree Tribe Rodeo Association and the president of the Bear Paw Indian Rodeo Association, provided Houle with cash kickbacks and kept additional cash for himself, according to prosecutors.

Colliflower pleaded guilty in December to one count theft from an Indian tribal organization. Houle has pleaded guilty to four criminal counts, including bribery, theft and obstruction of justice.

Colliflower attorney Daniel Donovan had asked the judge to sentence his client to three years’ probation.

The attorney asked U.S. District Judge Brian Morris to not send Colliflower to prison, saying the defendant needs to support his family and that he already has been punished by the loss of credibility and reputation in his community.

Donovan did not return a call for comment Thursday. Assistant U.S. Attorney Carl Rostad said he had no comment on the judge’s sentence.


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