HELENA, Montana — A Havre businessman agreed to plead guilty to bribing a tribal official and conspiring to make false claims in order to take federal stimulus money awarded to the Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation.
Defendant Shad Huston signed the plea deal on Friday, acknowledging that he bribed a Chippewa Cree official and used fake invoices to get paid for work his companies never did on the reservation.
The deal must be accepted by U.S. District Judge Brian Morris. A previous plea agreement fell through in March when Huston said prosecutors tried to punish him for crimes not included in the agreement.
If a judge accepts the latest deal, it would wrap up the two-year case that included five indictments against Huston. The maximum possible penalty is 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, though prosecutors agreed to recommend a lighter sentence, citing Huston's cooperation.
The charges center on allegations that tribal officials were given cash and gifts in return for lucrative contracts paid for with the federal aid and grant money given to the Chippewa Cree tribe.
The Chippewa Cree tribe received $10.6 million in federal stimulus money between 2009 and 2011 for road construction and maintenance. Huston gave Timothy Rosette, the head of the tribe's roads department, cash in exchange for Rosette awarding contracts to Huston's companies, prosecutors said.
Huston presented $120,000 worth of fake invoices for work that he claimed his trucking company did on the reservation, according to the indictment.
As part of the plea agreement, prosecutors agreed to dismiss two other indictments against Huston that included charges of bribery, embezzlement, theft and other crimes.
Huston had been charged with bribing former state Rep. Tony Belcourt, who was head of the Chippewa Cree Development Corp., and former tribal chairman Bruce Sunchild for consulting work and contracts after the tribe's health clinic was flooded in 2010.
The tribe had received $25 million in insurance money and $11.6 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency after the flooding.
Belcourt, Sunchild and Rosette are serving prison sentences after making plea agreements with prosecutors.
Huston previously pleaded guilty to an indictment for not reporting transactions when his money service business cashed checks of more than $10,000 for the family members of Chippewa Cree tribal leaders implicated in the corruption investigation.