GREAT FALLS — The former operations manager for the Blackfeet Tribe was arraigned today on charges accusing him of stealing federal COVID-19 relief funding the tribe received, U.S. Attorney Jesse Laslovich said.
James Cameron McNeely, 43, of Browning, pleaded not guilty to an indictment charging him with theft from an Indian tribal government receiving federal funding, wire fraud, and theft from an Indian tribal organization. If convicted of the most serious crime, McNeely faces a maximum of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and three years of supervised release.
U.S. Magistrate Judge John T. Johnston presided. McNeely was released pending further proceedings.
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. As alleged, 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.
An indictment is merely an accusation, and a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
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.