Woman embezzled $146,000 from Suquamish Tribe

SUQUAMISH — A woman found guilty of embezzling thousands of dollars from the Suquamish Tribe has been sentenced to more than a year in prison.

Renee Pearl Peleti, 46, of Bainbridge Island was sentenced in a U.S. District Court in Tacoma to 15 months in prison on May 9.

She pleaded guilty to embezzling more than $146,000 from the Suquamish Tribe on Feb. 14, and said at the time that she took the money to pay for her family's living expenses.

Peleti was also sentenced to three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $146,496 in restitution, based on the amount of funds she embezzled in the more than five years she worked as an administrative assistant at the Suquamish Tribe's Indian Child Welfare Department.

Peleti paid for her own utility bills using fraudulent checks, vouchers and gift cards using welfare department funds. Suquamish Tribe authorities caught on to Peleti's scheme in April 2013 after it was discovered that seven benefit checks had been modified and cashed. They were merely the latest in more than 260 fraudulent checks that Paleti was eventually found to be responsible for, totaling more than $90,000.

The checks were issued to others, but Paleti managed to cash them, using the funds to pay her own bills. A total of 14 other checks were issued from Tribe accounts to pay bills from Puget Sound Energy, at a cost of more than $2,800. Peleti also issued 125 food vouchers that she used for her own grocery shopping at the local Albertsons. The grocery voucher bill totaled more than $36,972.

Peleti was also found guilty of using gift cards from the department for her own use, totaling more than $11,127.

Peleti is a member of the Nooksack Tribe. The embezzlement case was investigated by both the Suquamish Police and the FBI.


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