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New theft, tax evasion indictments unsealed against former Chippewa Cree tribal leader

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HELENA, Montana — A federal court has unsealed new theft and tax evasion charges against a former chairman of Montana's Chippewa Cree tribe who already planned to plead guilty to theft and bribery in a previous indictment.

Former Chippewa Cree Tribal Business Chairman Bruce Sunchild originally was indicted in June on charges that he took a $25,000 vehicle as a bribe in 2011 after authorizing $300,000 in payments from the tribe to a Havre businessman's consulting company.

He made a plea deal with prosecutors in September that includes all three indictments. His change-of-plea hearing scheduled for Nov. 10 in U.S. District Court in Great Falls.

The first of the new indictments was filed in August and unsealed on Oct. 20. It charges Sunchild with three counts of theft and alleges he told the Rocky Boy's Health Clinic director in 2012 to cut his son and another person checks of $12,500 each from the clinic board's funds.

Sunchild was chairman and on the health clinic's board of directors at the time.

The second indictment was filed Oct. 20 and unsealed on Wednesday. It alleges Sunchild filed false tax returns from 2009 through 2012.

Sunchild underreported his income each of those four years, according to the charges. For example, in 2012 he reported making $215,667, but his actual income was $272,667, according to the charges.

Sunchild's attorney, Mark Meyer, did not immediately return a call for comment Thursday.

The charges are part of the U.S. Attorney's Office's Guardians Project, a sweeping corruption investigation that has targeted misused federal money on the Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation and other Native American reservations in Montana.

The probe has netted guilty pleas from multiple tribal officials and the consultants and companies awarded contracts for work from a 50-mile water pipeline to repairing flood-damaged buildings on the Rocky Boy's reservation.

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