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Press Release

Former Coordinator for Long Hollow District Sentenced for Embezzlement from Tribe

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of South Dakota
Defendant Prosecuted as Part of The Guardians Project, a Federal Law Enforcement Initiative to Combat Corruption, Fraud, and Abuse in South Dakota

SIOUX FALLS - United States Attorney Alison J. Ramsdell announced today that U.S. District Judge Charles B. Kornmann has sentenced a Sisseton, South Dakota, woman, who was convicted of Embezzlement and Theft from a Tribal Organization. The sentencing took place on July 31, 2023, in Aberdeen, South Dakota.

Valette Keoke, age 52, was sentenced to two years of probation and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $23,000. She was also ordered to pay a $100 special assessment to the Federal Crime Victims Fund.

Keoke pled guilty to a criminal information on May 4, 2023.

According to court documents, from about June of 2017 through July of 2020, Keoke embezzled and converted to her own use funds and other property belonging belonging to the Long Hollow District ("LHD") of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate Sioux Tribe ("Tribe".) During the relevant time period, Keoke was employed as the District Coordinator for the LHD, thereby making her an employee of a tribal organization associated with the Tribe. As part of her duties, Keoke processed checks from the LHD’s bank account. While working in that capacity, Keoke accepted checks payable to herself. Her offense conduct involved her unlawful receipt of approximately $23,000. The money she received derived from the LHD’s bank account. She was not entitled to that money, and her receipt of that money was unlawful.

The investigation was conducted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeremy R. Jehangiri prosecuted the case.   

The case was brought pursuant to The Guardians Project, a federal law enforcement initiative to coordinate efforts between participating agencies, to promote citizen disclosure of public corruption, fraud, and embezzlement involving federal program funds, contracts, and grants, and to hold accountable those who are responsible for adversely affecting those living in South Dakota’s Indian country communities. The Guardians Project is another step of federal law enforcement’s on-going efforts to increase engagement, coordination, and positive action on behalf of tribal communities. Led by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the participating agencies include:  FBI; the Offices of Inspector General for the Departments of Interior, Health and Human Services, Social Security Administration, Agriculture, Transportation, Education, Justice, and Housing and Urban Development; Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division; U.S. Postal Inspector Service; U.S. Postal Service, Office of Inspector General.

For additional information about The Guardians Project, please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Office at (605) 330-4400. To report a suspected crime, please contact law enforcement at the federal agency’s locally listed telephone number.

Updated August 3, 2023

Indian Country Law and Justice
Financial Fraud