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Crime-and-courts
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Man admits to defrauding IRS of more than $520,000 in tax scheme

A man owes more than $520,000 to the federal government after devising a scheme that targeted people on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, according to court documents. 

Manaen Dean Matthews is scheduled to admit to planning and carrying out this scheme next Friday at the Rapid City federal courthouse. He's set to plead guilty to wire fraud, conspiracy to defraud the government and making a false claim. 

Matthews faces up to 20 years in prison for the wire fraud charge, 10 years for the conspiracy charge and five years for the false claim charge. The U.S. Attorney's Office, however, has agreed to ask the judge for a sentence of no more than six-and-a-half years in prison, according to the plea deal. 

From 2015 to 2018 in South Dakota and other states, Matthews filed 1,201 fraudulent federal income tax returns for more than $3.6 million in false claims, according to the factual basis document he signed. As a result, he owes $523,250 in restitution to the International Revenue Service. 

It appears Matthews was active in South Dakota from April 2017 to April 2018, when he directed three Rapid City residents to take personal information from people on the reservation and elsewhere in the state by falsely telling them that they would receive large tax refunds. Using that personal information, he filed 186 false tax returns for refunds worth $675,547. 

Once Matthews received the fraudulent refunds, the document says, he would take $650 per return for himself and send $100 to the conspirators who helped collect the personal information. Matthews wired at least $18,456 he gained from the scheme to his conspirators from 2017 to 2018. 

The three Rapid City residents who helped Matthews are not currently facing criminal charges. 


Local
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Rapid City teacher of the year stresses real-world use for math, statistics

Seth Keene first plans his lessons by looking at real-world applications for the material at hand.

Scatter plots and correlations, for example, are used by Netflix to recommend new movies and by eHarmony to pair potential partners.

Tate Helfenstein, a Rapid City Stevens High School student, said he can use math to safely fell trees for his job with his father's lumber company. He took his first class with Keene his sophomore year.

"Up to that point, I thought math was the worst. But when I had Keene as a teacher, math became more of a fun thing to do," said Helfenstein, 18.

Keene, 44, was recognized for his work this year, his seventh at Stevens, when the Rapid City Public School Foundation named him the district's teacher of the year. He received a check for $1,000 with the the award, which was the first one the foundation gave out since putting the program on hiatus five years ago.

The recognition puts Keene in the running for regional and state teacher of the year awards, which are managed by the South Dakota Department of Education.

"My first reaction when I got the call that I won the award for the district was that of relief," Keene said. "So many other teachers in my department and in this school were worthy of a nomination or the award themselves that I really felt like if I didn't win for the whole district, there were so many people at Stevens who could have."

Now, Keene said, he feels a pressure to continue representing his colleagues well.

Originally from Deadwood, Keene has taught for 18 years in a career that included stops in Minnesota, St. Thomas More High School and at other Rapid City schools. Two of his children graduated from the Rapid City school district, where his youngest daughter still attends.

He is married to Barb Keene, who serves as operations manager for the Black Hills Area Community Foundation.

Keene teaches classes in statistics, probability and remedial math at Stevens, and this year is piloting the school's first Advanced Placement Statistics course.

"Statistics is my true passion because it's what you use every day," Keene explained.

After graduating from Lead-Deadwood High School in 1992, Keene went on to earn a bachelor of science degree in mathematics from the University of Notre Dame. It was in college that he discovered his passion for teaching, having tutored several of his classmates.

"As we worked, I understood the material better, and as we worked, I got a lot of joy out of seeing that they understood it," he said. "I knew right then that that was the path that I wanted to take."

Keene worked in retail and in banking after college before earning his state alternative teaching certificate. Those experiences, he said, drove home some of the practical applications for mathematics that he uses to engage students today.

"Seth’s passion for students' learning is what I believe is really something that makes him a great educator," Stevens Principal John Julius said. "He really works hard to connect with students, develop relationships and figure out ways that he can work on his craft to provide valuable learning opportunities."

Outside of the classroom, Keene serves as coordinator for the Black Hills MathCounts competitive program and as adviser for the Stevens' cycling club, which takes weekly trips to Hansen-Larsen Memorial Park and Skyline Wilderness Park. He's been at the forefront of an effort to redevelop Raider Park, which sits across from Stevens and is owned by the district, into a multi-use trail and green space.

It's Keene's hope that the space will not only be used for athletics but education as well. Agricultural classes will help decide which trees will be planted there, he said, and science classes will be able to study animal and plant life outdoors.

A nonprofit organized by the friends and family of Tom Pfeifle, the late Stevens graduate for whom the trails are named, has already raised $70,000 for the project, which is entirely donation driven. Keene said there are plans to apply for additional grant funding.

"The group of teachers who are kind of leading this had the opportunity to work with Tom, so for us it’s really kind of a special, personal thing as well,” he said.

Keene's colleagues are part of what he said makes working at Stevens special. Their commitment to trying new things for their students, he said, is second to none.

“As long as I’m in education, this is where I’ll be,” Keene said.


Local
Helping Hands
Meals on Wheels provides nutrition for Black Hills seniors

Editor's note: Helping Hands is a weekly series profiling nonprofits in western South Dakota. 

Meals on Wheels brings a daily meal to the door of many senior citizens in the Black Hills area, but it's more than just a delivery service. Meals on Wheels also provides well-being checks for seniors.

Meals on Wheels Western South Dakota provides hot, nutritious meals to seniors over the age of 60 in 45 communities in western South Dakota, in addition to the social interactions and in-home safety checks.

The organization has been serving the the Black Hills for 48 years, assisting an average 1,100 people a day. Recipients also may enjoy a meal with their friends and neighbors in one of the congregate dining rooms in those communities. For home-bound seniors, volunteers will deliver the meals.

The organization will be participating in the 17th annual March for Meals — a month-long, nationwide celebration of Meal on Wheels and seniors who rely on the vital service to remain independent at home.

Meals on Wheels Western South Dakota’s celebration will include activities throughout the month of March in various communities served, including Community Champions Week, March 18-22, where community leaders and members will ride along with volunteers to learn more about the services provided, the Belle Fourche March for Meals Luncheon on March 18, and the Rapid City proclamation from Mayor Allender on March 22.

“It's a time where we raise awareness and educate people about the importance of senior nutrition and the different programs we’re doing in the communities, as well as giving people opportunities to do a ride along to see what our programs are all about,” said Anna Quinn, director of Outreach and Communications for the nonprofit.

There are many ways to help Meals on Wheels, and the organization is always looking for volunteers. It encourages people to participate in the Community Champions week, because the week gives people the opportunity to learn more about the organization and how to become a volunteer.

“Becoming a volunteer and making a donation, those two are always big things. Through our funding, it still takes about $5 for each meal that we serve and so we definitely need those donations to help continue serving seniors. Without our volunteers, we couldn't do what we do,” Quinn said.

For more information or to learn how to donate, contact Meals on Wheels Western South Dakota by phone at 605-394-6002, through email at info@mealsprogram.com, or by visiting mealsprogram.com or www.facebook.com/SDMeals.


Crime-and-courts
top story
Daughter of woman who died after being found beaten in Whiteclay sues for negligence

Wounded Foot

The daughter of a Porcupine woman who died in 2016 after being found beaten in Whiteclay, Neb., is suing the federal government government, alleging that Pine Ridge-based ambulance and hospital staff were negligent by failing to recognize that the woman had a serious head injury that needed immediate treatment. 

Sherry Wounded Foot, a mother of three, died at the age of 50 on Aug. 17, 2016, 12 days after she was found in Whiteclay.

No one has been arrested for her beating death, but her case remains under investigation by the Nebraska State Patrol and is also a priority of the Oglala Sioux Tribe's police department, said Sheridan County Sheriff Jeff Brewer. 

Sandra Wounded Foot Graham, Sherry's daughter, filed the federal lawsuit last week after administrative complaints against the U.S. government and its agencies were rejected. The lawsuit says the information about how Wounded Foot was diagnosed and treated comes from medical records. Graham is represented by Robin Zephier, a Rapid City-based attorney, and requesting a jury determine how much money she is owed to cover actual and emotional expenses. She said medical, funeral and memorial costs were more than $100,000. 

Wounded Foot was found beaten and unconscious behind a building in Whiteclay on Aug. 5, 2016, according to news reports from the time. An ambulance from the Oglala Sioux Tribe responded around 9:45 a.m. but the medics failed to properly diagnose and triage Wounded Foot, because while they examined her, they didn't note any obvious trauma even though she had blood and bruises on her body, the lawsuit says. 

The ambulance medics "made a determination that no emergency existed, when indeed this was a critical life-threatening situation," before dropping her off at the Indian Health Service emergency room in Pine Ridge around 10:05 a.m., the lawsuit says. 

An emergency room nurse who examined and treated Wounded Foot described her as "unresponsive" but said she moved when an IV was inserted, the lawsuit says. The nurse also noted that Wounded Foot had been drinking for three days. The nurse gave her oxygen and other treatment as her condition began to regress. 

After Wounded Foot had a seizure, hospital staff called Rapid City Regional Hospital for help, but Regional staff said they could only accept her if she had a CAT Scan, according to the lawsuit. At 12:09 p.m., two hours after she arrived at the hospital, Wounded Foot was given the scan and doctors found she had bleeding inside her head and needed immediate surgery. 

The Pine Ridge hospital has a history of not ordering CAT Scans because they are poorly trained and don't want to pay for them, the lawsuit alleges. 

"This type of situation is ongoing, for years, with no learning from previous mistakes and deaths" and is grossly reckless for the hospital's Native American patients, it says. 

A medical helicopter arrived at 1:25 p.m. to take Wounded Foot to Regional Hospital but by then, the delay in diagnosing her serious head injury meant she wasn't treated during the "Golden Hour" when she had the best chance at recovery, the lawsuit says. 

Regional Hospital staff noted that Wounded Foot had bruises on her face and gave her another CT that confirmed that she had bleeding inside her head as well as fractured ribs and fluid, likely blood, inside her abdomen, the lawsuit says. Brain surgery began at 4:42 p.m. and she tolerated the procedure well.

Wounded Foot was in a coma after the surgery and five days later, doctors said she would remain in a coma or die if life support was taken away. Her family decided to bring her back to Pine Ridge IHS for end-of-life car, and Wounded Foot died surrounded by her family on Aug. 17. 

The U.S. government has about two months to respond to the lawsuit. 


Courtesy Photo 

Wounded Foot


Ryan Hermens, Journal staff 

Alec Humke, center, of the Rushmore Thunder, is congratulated by teammates after scoring during a game Jan. 12 against the Watertown Lakers at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center.