Families from 2 reservations charged separately in tribal corruption investigation

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HELENA, Montana — Members of two families were charged in separate indictments Monday as part of a long-running federal investigation into corruption on Montana's Indian reservations.

Brockton's business manager is accused of issuing and forging checks from the Fort Peck reservation town's bank account to herself, her husband and their two daughters. Desiree Lambert is accused of forging the signature of Brockton mayor Ben Johnson on several of the checks between January 2013 and this March.

The Lamberts and their daughters, Kayla and Kaycee, are charged with wire fraud, theft from a local government receiving federal funding and aggravated identity theft. They were indicted in U.S. District Court in Great Falls.

In the second indictment, a husband and wife who worked for Stone Child College in Box Elder are accused of taking more than $242,000 in kickbacks from a construction company that regularly worked at the Rocky Boy's reservation school.

Melody Henry was the president of the college and Frank Henry its facilities manager between 2010 and 2012 when they accepted the payments from Hunter Burns Construction, a company implicated in other corruption indictments on the reservation, according to the indictment.

Melody and Frank Henry have been charged with embezzlement conspiracy, theft and accepting bribes. Hunter Burns, the owner of the construction company, is not named as a defendant because he was immunized from future prosecution in a previous plea agreement in which he pleaded guilty in a conspiracy to give kickbacks to tribal officials in exchange for contracts.

All six defendants pleaded not guilty, Assistant U.S. Attorney Car Rostad said after their court appearances.

The U.S. Attorney's Office's Guardians Project already has netted Burns' conviction along with those of tribal leaders, consultants and contractors on the Rocky Boy's, Fort Peck, Crow and Blackfeet reservations. The project began in 2011 to root out corruption and theft from federal programs on Montana's seven Indian reservations.

Desiree Lambert began issuing Brockton town checks to herself and her family two years after she and her husband, Bernard Lambert Jr., were released from probation in their 2007 conviction for stealing government money to pay for one of their daughter's college tuition, federal prosecutors said.

That daughter, Kayla, holds multiple state records as a prep basketball player for Brockton, including most points scored in a career, in a season and in a game.

The new indictment did not say how much the Lamberts are accused of taking, only that it was more than $5,000. Rostad declined to comment on the charges besides what is in the indictment, and Johnson did not immediately return a call for comment.

Melody and Frank Henry provided Hunter Burns Construction with $530,242 in payments for construction projects and consulting services between September 2010 and December 2012, according to their indictment.

They then solicited and received $242,273 of that money back from the company, prosecutors charged.

A phone listed under Melody Henry's name was disconnected. There is no phone listing for the Lamberts.

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