Former Oklahoma State University Professor Sentenced to Five Years in Prison
GREAT FALLS—The United States Attorney’s Office today announced that Gary Joseph Conti, 68, of Three Forks, a former Oklahoma State University professor who was part of a multi-million-dollar tribal corruption and fraud case on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, was sentenced to five years in federal prison, $1.7 million in restitution, and three years on supervised release by U.S. District Brian Morris of Great Falls. He was also sentenced to three years of supervised release and $2700 in special assessments.
Conti was convicted of bankruptcy fraud by a federal jury in March and of 26 other felony crimes by a second federal jury in May. Conti was convicted of assisting Blackfeet Tribal officials Frances Onstad and Delyle “Shanny” Augare, and others, obtain millions of dollars in federal monies for a program for troubled and at risk Blackfeet youth called the Po’Ka Project. The federal money was provided based on fraudulent claims as to matching or “in-kind” contributions of third parties which made it appear that the project was becoming self-sufficient. Once the federal money was provided to the Po’Ka program, Onstad and Augare paid Conti $475,000 over a three year period-from August 2008 to August 2011-of which Conti kicked-back $225,000 through a children’s charity bank account over which Augare and Onstad had control. Conti was a professor at Oklahoma State University—Tulsa Campus until May of 2011. An audit by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General found the projected loss due to fraud and mismanagement at $4.6 million out of the $9 million provided to the Po’Ka Project from 2005 to 2011.
Conti was allowed to voluntarily surrender to prison when a facility is designated.
The investigation was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Internal Revenue Service, and the Office of Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services.