Nooksack member embezzled $146,000 from Suquamish Tribe

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDMay 9, 2014 

A Nooksack Indian Tribe member will serve 15 months in prison and three years of supervised release for embezzling more than $146,000 from the Suquamish Tribe in Kitsap County.

Renee Pearl Peleti, 46, from Bainbridge Island, was an administrative assistant in the tribe's Indian Child Welfare Department for more than five years. During that time, she used fraudulent checks, food vouchers and gift cards to pay for her groceries and bills, according to the U.S. Attorney's office.

The Suquamish Tribe became aware in April 2013 that benefit checks for clients of the welfare department had been altered and cashed. Peleti had taken more than 260 tribal checks, totaling more than $90,000, to cash and use for bills. She also used tribal checks to pay her own Puget Sound Energy bills.

Peleti pleaded guilty in February 2014 and was sentenced Friday, May 9, in U.S. District Court in Seattle. Tribal leaders who spoke at the sentencing hearing said Peleti's embezzlement meant that some children didn't have that money for food, clothing, sports equipment or Christmas presents.

Peleti said she took the money to pay for her own family expenses.

Reach Elana Pidgeon at 360-715-2249 or elana.pidgeon@bellinghamherald.com.

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