Montana Prosecutors Honored for Anti-Corruption Work

The U.S. Attorney's Guardians Project has charged 77 defendants since 2012

By Dillon Tabish

HELENA — The U.S. Department of Justice’s inspector general honored the Montana U.S. Attorney’s Office for its work to weed out fraud involving federally funded programs on Indian reservations.

Executive Assistant U.S. Attorney Carl Rostad of Great Falls accepted the Collaboration Award on Feb. 27 in Washington, D.C., on behalf of the U.S. Attorney’s Guardians Project.

The project has charged 77 defendants since 2012, and has resulted in convictions on more than 100 charges and orders for millions of dollars in restitution.

The DOJ says Rostad is considered the architect of the strike-force model that elevated the Offices of Inspector General in corruption investigations. U.S. Attorney Mike Cotter said in addition to holding defendants responsible, the investigations found errors in oversight and management that could lead to improvements in the grants and contracts process.

Rostad praised the work of Joe Waller, the Interior Department’s OIG’s resident agent in charge in Billings.

“I may have designed it, but Agent Waller makes it work,” Rostad said.

The FBI and IRS also are involved in the Guardians Project.

Prosecutors obtained convictions against former officials with the Blackfeet Tribe’s Po’Ka Project, a federally funded effort to provide substance abuse and mental health treatment for youth on the reservation.

Former Director Francis Onstad and former Assistant Director Delyle Shanny Augare were each sentenced to over three years in prison and ordered to pay $1 million in restitution for defrauding the program and overpaying and accepting kickbacks from a consultant, Dr. Gary Conti, who was ordered to pay $50,000 in restitution.

On the Rocky Boy Reservation, 18 people and businesses have been convicted of defrauding various federal programs or awarding contracts and giving or receiving kickbacks or bribes. Restitution orders so far total $1.2 million along with a $311,000 forfeiture and a $125,000 fine.

On the Fort Peck Reservation, Brockton’s business manager is charged with writing town checks to herself and her family by forging the mayor’ signature. Court records say only that the amount taken was over $5,000.