Published on May 9th, 2014 | by The Kitsap Scene0
Bainbridge woman imprisoned for embezzling from Suquamish Tribe
A Bainbridge Island woman was sentenced to 15 months in prison and three years of suprvised release today after she pleaded guilty to embezzling $150,000 from the Suquamish Tribe in Kitsap County.
Renee Pearl Peleti, 46, worked as an administrative assistant in the tribe’s Indian child welfare department for more than five years. Over that time, she embezzled more than $146,496 from the tribe using fraudulent checks, vouchers and gift cards for groceries, and checks written for her own utility payments, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
U.S. District Judge Robert J. Bryan ordered Peleti to pay $146,496 in restitution.
The Suquamish Tribe first became aware in April 2013 that benefit checks for seven clients of its Indian child welfare department had been altered and cashed, according to the release. A resulting investigation found Peleti had “engaged in a lengthy embezzlement scheme.”
According to the news release, Peletti cashed more than 260 fraudulent checks, totaling more than $90,000, which were written in other people’s names. She used the cash to pay her own bills, according to the release.
Peleti also had 14 tribal checks written to Puget Sound Energy to pay more than $2,800 of her own utility bills, cashed more than 125 Albertson’s food vouchers to buy $36,972 worth of groceries for herself, and embezzled multiple vendor gift cards worth more than $11,127, the release states.
Peleti, a member of the Nooksack Tribe, said she took the money to pay for her own family expenses, the release states. She pleaded guilty on Feb. 14, 2014.
Tribal leaders who spoke at the sentencing hearing told the court the embezzlement meant needy tribal children were denied money for food, clothing, sports equipment or Christmas presents. They noted that because of the theft, the children had missed opportunities for fun or education.
The case was investigated by the Suquamish Police and the FBI, and was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney J. Tate London.