Members of the Chippewa Cree tribe funneled money from the loan company



HELENA – Former tribal health director Chippewa Cree and two former executives of a tribe-owned online payday loan company have secretly received 7% of the revenue of the company which has made $ 25 million since 2011, revealed new court documents.

Details of hidden payments made to former Plain Green executives Neal Rosette and Billi Anne Morsette, as well as former health director James Eastlick Jr., are revealed in an arbitration award attached to a lawsuit filed this year. this month by the tribe.

Patrick Irvine’s July 31 award for the American Arbitration Association revealed that Nevada-based Encore Services LLC and tribal leaders were hiding the deal that sent 5% of Plain Green’s gross revenue to a company called Ideal. Consulting owned by Rosette and Morsette.

Eastlick received a share of that money, as well as 2% of the additional income paid to a company he owned called Trio Consulting.

The money was provided to the consulting firms from the 15 percent share of Plain Green’s earnings given to Encore, which provided management and advisory services for the tribe’s online loan programs.

But Encore and the tribal leaders withheld these payments from the rest of the tribe by not disclosing them in Encore’s fee agreement, Irvine said.

The arbitrator came to this conclusion after hearing testimony from the owners of Encore, who said the tribe wanted Encore to help them put in place an “executive retention plan” for Rosette and Morsette.

“It was my understanding that the board didn’t want the rest of the community to know that Neal and Billi Anne were getting the extra money,” Encore director member Zachary Jones said in a statement. arbitration hearing.

Payments were made to Eastlick because of his influence over the tribe, according to the tribe’s lawsuit filed this month in Great Falls U.S. District Court.

“Although Eastlick had no experience with online lending, he was one of the few healthcare providers available to tribal members and had significant influence in the community,” the lawsuit said.

Jones did not respond to a call for comment on Monday. Eastlick’s attorney Vernon Woodward also did not return a message.

A phone number for Rosette has been disconnected. There was no advertisement for Morsette.

Plain Green Loans has been a lucrative business for the tribe located on the Rocky Boy Indian Reservation in northern Montana. The company charges borrowers annualized interest rates of up to 379%, and the tribe’s status as a sovereign nation allows it to ignore a Montana law that caps interest rates at 36%.

Irvine awarded the Chippewa Cree $ 1.1 million and rescinded the fee deal after ruling that Encore knew the terms of his fee deal with the tribe were meant to cover up the facts and deceive members of the tribe who could have opposed it.

The tribe was seeking $ 13.1 million from Encore, which was the total amount the Nevada company took from Plain Green, plus what the tribe claims was embezzled by Encore from another loan company in line called First American Capital Resources.

Encore helped set up and manage First American Capital Resources for the tribe starting in 2010. The tribe claimed that the owners of Encore failed to deliver on promised investments, mismanaged the business and awarded claims. contracts to shell companies that did not provide any service.

But the arbitrator ruled that the tribe owed only the money that had been passed on from Encore to the tribe members, and denied their other claims.

The tribe then filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the full $ 13.1 million.

He names Encore and its owners as defendants, but not Rosette, Morsette or Eastlick. Tribal attorney Richard Zack declined to say why or comment on the case other than reading a prepared statement.

“The tribe intends to vigorously pursue this action and to protect and enforce its rights through legal process,” he said.

Eastlick pleaded guilty in May to bribery and theft in separate criminal cases involving bribes of tribal leaders as part of an ongoing federal investigation into tribal corruption. He is expected to be sentenced this month.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Carl Rostad said he was aware of the tribe’s trial but could not say whether a criminal investigation was underway into Plain Green’s profits.


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