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Press Release

Billings man admits payroll check scheme to defraud Crow Tribe

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Montana

BILLINGS — A Billings man on Thursday admitted to a scheme in which he defrauded the Crow Tribe by receiving checks from the tribe’s payroll account, forging the payees and having the payees cash the checks, U.S. Attorney Jesse Laslovich said today.

The defendant, Jonathan Cleve Brien, 43, pleaded guilty to two counts of wire fraud. Brien faces a maximum of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Timothy J. Cavan presided. A sentencing date will be set before U.S. District Judge Dana L. Christensen. The court will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors. Brien was detained pending further proceedings.

The government alleged in court documents that in May 2019, Brien received checks from the Crow Tribe payroll account. Brien forged the payees on the checks and had those people cash the checks at various entities. A cooperator involved in methamphetamine in Billings admitted to law enforcement to being involved a check fraud scheme and that Brien informed the cooperator that he had access to a Crow Tribe account, which allegedly contained millions of dollars. On two occasions, the Brien brought the cooperator a signed Crow Tribe payroll check made payable to them in the amount of approximately $900. The cooperator deposited one of the checks into a personal bank account but withdrew most of the money as cash and split the money with Brien. The cooperator subsequently cashed the second check at a bank and again gave most of the cash to Brien. When interviewed, Brien initially denied knowledge of the checks, then admitted to receiving the Crow Tribe payroll checks and giving them to various people who were involved with him in using meth. He made the checks for about $900 because he thought tribe’s payroll account would have $900 in it and that it would be less suspicious if he kept the amount under $1,000.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office is prosecuting the case. The Department of Interior, Office of Inspector General conducted the investigation.



Clair J. Howard

Public Affairs Officer


Updated March 29, 2024

Financial Fraud
Indian Country Law and Justice
Press Release Number: 24-80