Laurel couple pleads guilty in tribal corruption case, student loan fraud

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BILLINGS, Montana — A Laurel couple has pleaded guilty to their role in embezzling money from the Chippewa Cree Tribe's Rodeo Association.

The Billings Gazette reports (http://bit.ly/1BAE4vl ) that Mark and Tammy Leischner helped tribal leaders siphon money from the association's bank account by accepting checks made to look like payments for rodeo services.

Prosecutors say the Leischners received nearly $270,000 between 2009 and 2010, and kicked back $115,000 to tribal councilman John "Chance" Houle, former state Rep. Tony Belcourt and psychologist James Eastlick Jr., Tammy Leischner's brother.

The Leischners will be sentenced Dec. 17.

Houle has pleaded not guilty to embezzlement. Eastlick and Belcourt previously pleaded guilty in the long-running federal corruption investigation.

The couple and son Brenden also entered guilty pleas this week for lying about their finances to receive nearly $100,000 in student aid money.

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