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Press Release

Waubay Woman Sentenced to Federal Prison for Embezzlement and Theft from an Indian Tribal Organization

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of South Dakota

SIOUX FALLS - United States Attorney Alison J. Ramsdell announced today that U.S. District Judge Charles B. Kornmann has sentenced a Waubay, South Dakota, woman convicted of Embezzlement and Theft from an Indian Tribal Organization and Aiding and Abetting. The sentencing took place on December 11, 2023, in Aberdeen, South Dakota.

Kayline Joy LaBelle, age 46, was sentenced to five years in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release. She was ordered to pay $203,283.13 in restitution and $100 as a statutorily required special assessment to the Federal Crime Victims Fund.

LaBelle was indicted for Embezzlement and Theft from an Indian Tribal Organization and Aiding and Abetting by a federal grand jury in July 2023. She pleaded guilty on September 11, 2023.

According to court documents, between 2018 and 2022, LaBelle and others embezzled more than $150,000 belonging to the Buffalo Lake District of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate Sioux Tribe, an Indian Tribal Organization. LaBelle was aided and abetted by Elaine Blanche King, Duane Randy LaBelle, Jr., Jacenta Rae Varns, and Shayline Lena Max.

LaBelle was the elected treasurer of the Buffalo Lake District and stole checks from the tribal organization. LaBelle then cashed those stolen checks at various vendors, businesses, and casinos, and she also distributed those stolen checks to her co-defendants. LaBelle used the funds for personal expenditures and her use was unauthorized and unlawful. LaBelle served as the treasurer until she resigned in September 2022.  Her conduct, acts, and omissions resulted in approximately $205,000 in losses to the district and tribe. 

Elaine Blanche King and Jacenta Rae Varns have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing. The cases against Duane Randy LaBelle, Jr. and Shayline Lena Max are pending in federal court.

This case was investigated by the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeremy R. Jehangiri is prosecuting the case.

LaBelle will have to surrender on December 26, 2023, to begin serving her sentence.

This 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: the 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; IRS Criminal Investigation; U.S. Postal Inspection Service; and the 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 December 18, 2023

Indian Country Law and Justice