Vale man pleads guilty |

Vale man pleads guilty

Speaking in a quiet voice, rancher Karl Jakob Knutson of Vale pleaded guilty in federal court on Friday to a charge of falsely claiming livestock losses in the aftermath of the October 2013 blizzard, which did cause the deaths of thousands of cattle in western South Dakota.

“Guilty,” Knutson said, when asked by U.S. Magistrate Judge Daneta Wollman if he had knowingly submitted a false claim seeking a disaster payment from a U.S. Department of Agriculture assistance program in May of 2014.

According to court documents, Knutson had claimed the loss of 129 cattle in an application submitted to the USDA’s Farm Service Agency in Sturgis.

The disaster payment for that level of loss would have exceeded $116,000. Investigators claimed Knutson had lost no more than 13 cattle in the storm.

Knutson entered a not guilty plea to charges last month, but changed his plea Friday in an agreement with prosecutors.

No date for sentencing was set. Knutson could face up to 5 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both, followed by 3 years of supervised release. Prosecutors are expected to ask for a sentence of probation and fines as part of the plea agreement.

–Reprinted with permission of Rapid City Journal