Justice Department Inspector General Commends Montana U.S. Attorney’s Guardians Project
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz lauded the Montana U.S. Attorney’s Office with an award for innovation in cooperation and effective investigation this week at a ceremony in Washington, D.C.
At a ceremony at the Department of Justice, Executive Assistant U.S. Attorney Carl Rostad of Great Falls accepted the Inspector General’s Collaboration Award on behalf of the U.S. Attorney’s Guardians Project, an anti-corruption task force which seeks to investigate and prosecute bribery, fraud and embezzlement in federally funded programs in Indian Country. Rostad is generally considered the architect of the unique strike-force model which elevated the role of the Offices of Inspector General (OIGs) in corruption investigations. Federal agencies such as Interior, Health and Human Services, Justice, Education, Housing and Urban Development, and Environmental Protection Agency spend billions of dollars every year supporting tribal services. The OIGs are responsible for seeking out fraud waste and abuse in the programs of the agencies to which they are attached. The OIGs have both law enforcement and review responsibilities which facilitate the use of the Guardians investigations as a basis for program reform and changes in the way federal dollars are awarded and accounted for. Agents working for the Inspectors General specialize in the investigation of fraud and corruption, and other forms of abuse of taxpayer monies, and possess specialized knowledge of federal programs. U.S. Attorney Mike Cotter embraced the program “as a way to do more than hold a particular defendant accountable, but also as a way to find errors in oversight and management of federal tax dollars that could lead to better government on the front end of the grants and contracts process.”
Since the Guardians Project began obtaining indictments from the federal grand jury in late 2012, thirty five indictments and two informations have been filed charging 77 defendants and resulting in over 100 felony convictions for crimes including conspiracy, bribery, fraud, embezzlement, extortion, obstruction of justice, money laundering, blackmail, and tax evasion.
The Guardians Project created a partnership that merged the expertise and oversight responsibilities of the various OIGs with the resources and traditional public corruption investigation responsibility of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service.
Notable Guardians prosecutions are the convictions of six defendants associated with the Po’Ka Program for disadvantaged youth on the Blackfeet reservation, the prosecution and conviction of Tony Belcourt, Chief Executive Officer of the Chippewa Cree Construction Corporation, and former tribal Chairmen John Chance Houle and Bruce Sunchild of the Rocky Boy’s reservation. Eight members of the Dale Old Horn family were convicted in 2012 and 2013 for their role in a scheme to defraud the Crow Tribe using positions with the Crow Tribe Historic Preservation Office. The former Chief Executive Officer of the Rocky Boy Health Clinic, Fawn Tadios, and former Clinic Finance Manager Theodora Morsette were convicted by juries in 2014 and 2015, respectively.
At the Wednesday ceremony, Rostad was joined by Resident Agent in Charge Joe Waller, Billings, of the Department of Interior’s Office of Inspector General. Rostad credited Waller with making the Guardian’s Project a success. Rostad told Inspector General Horowitz: “I may have designed it, but Agent Waller makes it work.”
It is gratifying to present this Collaboration Award to AUSA Rostad for his groundbreaking efforts to coordinate the federal law enforcement community's response to corruption and fraud in Indian Country," said Inspector General Horowitz. "Corruption, fraud, and many other crimes do not fit neatly within the jurisdiction of individual federal agencies, and innovative collaborative efforts such as the Guardians Project are exactly the kind of efficient and effective solutions we need to achieve success in this critical area. I commend AUSA Rostad, Agent Waller, and all those involved in the Guardians Project for their work so far, and I look forward to working with them more closely in the future."