Former Lenders Make Plea Deal in Tribal Embezzlement Case


Two former heads behind online lending company Plain Green Loans, wholly owned by the Chippewa Cree Tribe of Montana, are pleading guilty to embezzlement, taking bribes and not paying federal income taxes.

Neal Rosette and Billi Anne Morsette have reached plea deals with federal prosecutors, following their July indictments. Rosette and Morsette received 5 percent of the company's revenues from 2011 to 2013, while other tribal members were kept in the dark about their payouts, states the July decision. Plain Green earned at least $25 million for the tribe between 2011 and 2014, the lawsuit estimates.

Although Rosette and Morsette parted ways with Plain Green in 2012, each continued to receive a cut of roughly 5 percent of Plain Green's revenues under the table, the AP reported. When the tribe learned of the payments in August 2013, the payouts ceased.

RELATED: Montana Senator Sheds Light on Chippewa Cree's Plain Green Loans

The first indictment, conspiracy to embezzle tribal funds, carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The second indictment, accepting bribes, carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Rosette pleaded guilty to tax evasion, and Morsette to willful failure to file a tax return.

Under the plea deal, they'll pay back a total of about $1.3 million to the tribe and pay restitution to the Internal Revenue Service of more than $232,000 for Rosette, and more than $165,000 for Morsette.

In the midst of a nearly nationwide, state-by-state crackdown on high-interest, short-term loans, Plain Green launched on the  Rocky Boy Indian Reservation in April 2011, offering quick cash to approved applicants with installment-based payback plans at interest rates that can reach 379 percent. In comparison, Montana law caps interest rates at 36 percent.

RELATED: Chippewa Cree's Online Lending Venture Avoids Interest-Rate Caps

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