Former Blackfeet operations manager arraigned on theft charges

A former official from the Blackfeet Tribe pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to a federal indictment alleging he stole more than $70,000 in federal dollars allocated to the tribe for COVID-19 response supplies.

James C. McNeely, 43, entered not guilty pleas to an indictment charging him with theft from an Indian tribal government receiving federal funding, wire fraud and theft from an Indian tribal organization, according to a news release sent out by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

McNeely previously worked as the tribe’s operations manager and public information officer.

The Blackfeet Tribe received federal money through the American Rescue Plan Act, also known as ARPA, to help with public health and economic recovery amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the indictment, which was filed on Oct. 25.

McNeely claimed he bought COVID-19 supplies from the online retailer Amazon for the tribe when he had not actually purchased such products, the indictment alleges. It says he used and submitted pictures of his Amazon shopping cart and quotes from local businesses to “make his false claims appear legitimate to any review from the Blackfeet Tribe.”

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The accusations against McNeely spanned from October 2021

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