Former Tribal Chairman Sentenced for Loan Fraud

By Beacon Staff

GREAT FALLS — A former chairman of the Blackfeet Tribe has been sentenced to a year in prison and ordered to pay nearly $163,000 in restitution for selling cattle and other property he pledged as collateral for a series of loans from the U.S. Farm Services Agency.

Patrick Charles Thomas of Cut Bank was sentenced Monday by U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen in Great Falls, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said Tuesday. His prison sentence is to be followed by three years of supervised release.

Thomas, 55, earlier pleaded guilty to unlawful conversion of property.

Prosecutors allege that between June 2006 and July 2011 Thomas sold at least $162,865 in cattle, hay equipment and other property he had pledged as collateral for a series of FSA loans without the knowledge of the FSA and without using the money to repay the loans.

Thomas also had been indicted on a charge of making a false claim against a $760 million settlement in a lawsuit by Native American farmers who alleged they had been denied equal access to the USDA Farm Loan Program.

The indictment charged that Thomas falsely claimed that he had been denied loans in 1997, 1998 and 1999 and was awarded relief under the Keepseagle settlement, which gave injured farmers up to $50,000 in cash along with forgiveness of either some or all of their outstanding loans.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Carl Rostad said Tuesday that prosecutors plan to pursue that claim against Thomas in a lawsuit.

Thomas was a member of the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council from 2004 to 2008, first as vice chairman and then as chairman.

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