BILLINGS- The former president of the Northern Cheyenne tribe has pleaded guilty to federal charges for falsifying documents and double dipping from the tribe and the federal government for travel reimbursements while in office.
L. Jace Killsback agreed to plead guilty Monday to charges of wire fraud and conspiracy, which carry a maximum combined sentence of 30 years in federal prison and $500,000 in fines. Prosecutors are expected to ask for a lighter sentence with the guilty plea.
According to court documents, the scheme dated back in 2014, when Killsback was the tribe’s health director, and involves multiple people, though no others were named.
Prosecutors stated that Killsback requested and received reimbursement for official travel from the tribe and federal agencies, then provided false invoices and other documents for travel that didn’t occur, or some that occurred in part.
The court documents did not specify how much money Killsback is alleged to have stolen, or from which agencies. Prosecutors did note that the tribe receives federal money under the umbrella of the Department of Interior and the Department of Health and Human Services.
Killsback is scheduled for arraignment at 9 a.m. July 8 at the James. F. Battin Federal Courthouse in Billings. U.S. Magistrate Judge Timothy Cavan will preside.
Killsback served in a tumultuous time as head of the tribe, marked by power struggles with the tribe’s legislative branch.
He was elected tribal president and started his first term in 2016 before he was ousted by the Nothern Cheyenne Tribal Council in the fall of 2017. He won the seat back in a January 2018 special election that was contested by the runner-up.
In October 2018, Killsback resigned suddenly, citing months of clashes with the tribe’s legislative branch. He was replaced on an interim basis by Conrad Fisher.
In January, current President Rynalea Whiteman Pena was elected.