Posted: Aug 8, 2013 4:24 PM by MTN News
During a federal court session in Great Falls on August 8, 2013, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Keith Strong, the following people were arraigned:
- Francis Kay Onstad of Valier, 60 years old, appeared on Counts I, II-XXII, XXIII - XXVIII, and XXX - XXXIII.
- Delyle Shanny Augare of Browning, 57, appeared on Counts I, II - XXVIII, and XXXIV - XXXVII.
- Gary Joseph Conti of Three Forks, 67, appeared on Counts I, II - XXVIII, and XXIX.
- Dorothy May Still Smoking of East Glacier, 64, appeared on Counts I, and II - XXV.
- Katheryn Elizabeth Sherman of East Glacier, 66, appeared on Counts I, and II - XXV.
- Charlotte B. New Breast of East Glacier, 52, appeared on Counts I, II-XXII, and XXVII.
A press release from U.S. Attorney Michael Cotter states that the six people committed a variety of federal crimes based on their various roles in administering and reporting on the Blackfeet Po'Ka Project.
The Po'ka Project was developed to help troubled and at-risk Blackfeet youth and was initially funded by a federal grant in 2005 from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
The indictment alleges more than two dozen counts of wire fraud, conspiracy, theft, embezzlement, and money laundering.
The indictment alleges that the defendants fabricated records and made material misrepresentations as to the Tribe's contributions to the
Po'Ka Project in an effort to maintain maximum federal funding - funding that would have been significantly curtailed or terminated if
the in-kind contribution levels could not be achieved.
Other portions of the indictment allege a scheme to kick-back money to Onstad and Augare using Conti as an intermediary vendor
described in Counts 15, 16, and 18, relating to embezzlement from a federally funded program and money laundering based upon theft of
government property and interstate transportation of stolen property.
The indictment also alleges that Defendant Conti committed bankruptcy fraud and that defendants Onstad and Augare committed
tax evasion and willful failure to file income tax returns.
All six of the defendants pled not guilty to the charges indicated below and have been released on special conditions.
Count I: Conspiracy to Defraud The United States
Counts II-XXII: Scheme to Defraud the United States and the Blackfeet Tribe/Wire
Count XXIII: Federal False Claims Act Conspiracy
Count XXIV: Federal False Claims Act
Count XXV: Theft of Federal Property by Fraud
Counts XXVI & XXVII: Theft from an Indian Tribal Government Receiving Federal Grants
Count XXVIII: Money Laundering
Count XXIX: Bankruptcy Fraud
Counts XXX-XXXII, XXXV: Willful Failure to File Tax Return
Counts XXXIII-XXXIV, XXXVI-XXXVII: Income Tax Evasion
The investigation was conducted by a team of agents and auditors working with the U.S. Attorney's Guardians Project, including the Office of Inspector General for the Department of Interior, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Criminal Investigation Division of the Internal Revenue Service.
A pre-trial conference and a trial date will be set and the United States will be required to prove the allegations set forth in the indictment beyond a reasonable doubt.
Cotter says that this case is the latest result of The Guardians Project, which was created in 2011.
Under the Guardians Project, there have been eight indictments against 25 defendants, many of whom are tribal employees with "significant fiduciary and public trust responsibilities."
Click here to read more about the investigation and the charges (PDF).