- Associated Press - Monday, November 7, 2016

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) - Montana’s Crow Tribe has reimbursed the U.S. government more than $2 million that was intended to pay for the construction of a new transit building but was instead put into the tribe’s general budget, tribal and federal officials said.

Federal investigators said in a report issued Monday that officials with the Bureau of Indian Affairs knew the money from a 2012 transportation grant was misspent and failed to take action.

A 2013 audit of the tribe confirmed the misuse of the money, according to the investigators from the Interior Department’s Office of Inspector General.

A BIA spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The case was referred to the Department of Justice for possible criminal charges, but the agency declined to pursue the matter, Inspector General’s Office spokeswoman Nancy DiPaolo said. She said a BIA response to the investigation was due by Jan. 7.

Outgoing Crow Tribe Chairman Darrin Old Coyote says the money already had been spent when he was elected in November 2012.

“They just slushed it right into the general fund,” Old Coyote said. “I wish they would have built the (transit center), but there was no way. The money was already out the door by the time I came into office in December 2012.”

A $2.2 million check was sent to the BIA last week to reimburse the agency, Old Coyote said.

The inspector general’s report said the original grant amount was $2.5 million.

There was not an immediate explanation for the discrepancy between the two amounts.

Old Coyote lost his bid for re-election on Saturday to tribal Secretary Alvin “A.J.” Not Afraid.

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