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Courts

Former Blackfeet Tribal Operations Manager Charged with Stealing COVID-19 Relief Funds

James Cameron McNeely, 43, of Browning, pleaded not guilty to theft and wire fraud

By Beacon Staff

The former operations manager for the Blackfeet Tribe pleaded not guilty Tuesday to stealing federal COVID-19 relief funding the tribe received.

James Cameron McNeely, 43, of Browning, is charged with theft from an Indian tribal government receiving federal funding, wire fraud and theft from an Indian tribal organization.

The indictment alleges that the Blackfeet Tribe received federal grant funding from the American Rescue Plan Act to aid public health and economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. According to court records, from about October 2021 to October 2022, while working as the tribe’s operations manager in Browning, McNeely stole more than $5,000 from the tribe by fraudulently submitting requests for repayment to the tribe after falsely claiming to purchase COVID-19 supplies on behalf of the tribe from Amazon.

If convicted, McNeely faces a maximum of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan G. Weldon is prosecuting the case. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General and Blackfeet Law Enforcement Services conducted the investigation.

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