Former chairman pleads not guilty to stealing from program

GREAT FALLS (AP) — A former Blackfeet tribal chairman has pleaded not guilty to charges of stealing from the Montana tribe’s Head Start program.

The Great Falls Tribune reports Willie Sharp is accused of illegally approving more than $232,000 in overtime pay for himself, his wife and others between April 2014 and July 2014.

He entered his not guilty plea Tuesday to theft from an Indian tribal government receiving federal funding and to wire fraud. U.S. Magistrate Judge John T. Johnston released Sharp pending trial.

The charges carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and criminal forfeiture of $38,711 if he is convicted.

Sharp’s wife, Denise Sharp, and four other people have pleaded guilty to charges related to the scheme.