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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Montana

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Rodeo Association President Given Six Months for Role in Rocky Boy's Corruption Scheme

GREAT FALLS – The former president of an Indian rodeo association at Rocky Boy’s was sentenced to six months in federal custody today for his role in a scheme to embezzle monies from Chippewa Cree Rodeo Association accounts.  U.S. District Judge Brian Morris ordered Wade Christopher Colliflower, 33, of Box Elder, in connection with his earlier guilty plea of theft from an Indian tribal organization, to serve six months in custody and six months of home confinement, pay $44,750 in restitution, and serve two years of supervised release.

The prosecution told the Court that Colliflower was the President of the Bear Paw Indian Rodeo Association (BPIRA) in 2010.  At the same time, John Chance Houle, Vice-Chairman of the Chippewa Cree Business Committee, served as the President of the Chippewa Cree Rodeo Association (CCRA).  From 2010 through 2012, Houle and Colliflower used the BPIRA account to extract money from the CCRA account and use the money for their own personal use and benefit.   Colliflower was interviewed during the course of the investigation and admitted his role in assisting Houle’s embezzlement of monies from the CCRA by making kick-backs to Houle from payments processed through his separate rodeo association bank account.

On May 25, 2010, for example, Houle wrote a $50,000 check to the BPIRA account, denoted “5 IIFR Rodeos”.  That same day Colliflower deposited $43,000 into the BPIRA account and, according to Colliflower, took $7000 in cash which he gave to Houle. The following day Colliflower withdrew $15,007 from the BPIRF account and purchased a $15,000 cashier’s check payable to Havre Ford which was used to purchase a vehicle for Houle’s daughter.

A year later, on May 27, 2011, Colliflower withdrew $22,000 from the CCRA account, converted the funds into a Well’s Fargo cashier’s check, and deposited the whole amount into BPIRA’s checking account. According to Colliflower, by prior agreement, Houle received $7,000, as a result of this transaction.

Between July 7, 2011, and September 9, 2011, Houle wrote two checks off of the CCRA account to the BPIRA account for a total of $37,100.  After deposit, Colliflower gave Houle $10,500 and gave Houle’s daughter a check for $7000.

On May 18, 2012, and again on June 5, 2012, Houle wrote three checks directly to Colliflower, two in the amount of $37,500 and one for $25,000.  According to Colliflower, of the $100,000 he received from the CCRA account with these payments, he kicked back $30,000 to Houle.

At sentencing, Colliflower claimed that some of the monies paid to Houle were for legitimate purposes, such as the use of Houle’s livestock for rodeo events.  Colliflower also claimed that some of the money converted to cash was used to pay expenses, prizes, and other rodeo related costs.  The Court ordered Colliflower to pay $44,750 in restitution jointly and severally with any other defendant ordered to pay restitution in the rodeo association embezzlement case.  Houle is scheduled to be sentenced on May 28.  When restitution is ordered as a “joint and several” obligation, each defendant is responsible for the entire amount but only until the victim has received the entire amount, at which time all defendants have satisfied the restitution portion of the judgment even if one defendant paid more—even substantially more—than the others.

The case was investigated by agents of the Guardians Project, including agents from the Offices of Inspector General for Interior, Health & Human Services and EPA, and the Internal Revenue Service.        

Updated May 7, 2015