Sioux Falls man suspected in casino robberies arrested after chase

Casino employee alerted police after recognizing a car in the parking lot.

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SIOUX FALLS — A Sioux Falls man suspected in recent casino robberies was arrested over the holiday weekend.

Jeffrey Kovatch, 60, was jailed on alternate counts of first-degree robbery, aggravated eluding, false reporting and outstanding warrants, according to a Sioux Falls Police Department news release.

According to Sam Clemens, public information officer for the Sioux Falls Police Department, Kovatch is suspected in at least two separate casino robberies over the past week.

Shortly before 8 a.m. Monday, Dec. 19, police in Sioux Falls were dispatched to Big Al's Casino in the 4700 block of East Arrowhead Parkway for a report of a man who threatened to "shoot everybody" in the casino. Clemens said the suspect took cash from the building and left, though no gun was ever displayed. Surveillance video captured some images of the suspect and a vehicle.

Days later, at approximately 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, Dec. 22, Clemens said the same suspect entered Jokers Casino in the 5500 block of North Cliff Avenue and demanded cash from that business. An employee activated an alarm and the suspect left with no cash.


After two Sioux Falls casinos were victimized in one week, Clemens said images of the suspect's vehicle began circulating among the city's casino community, and employees were on high alert for any vehicle matching the description.

Roughly 15 hours after the attempted robbery on Dec. 22, Sioux Falls police officers were called to Deuce's Casino in the 500 block of Valley View Road after an employee reported that a vehicle matching the surveillance videos from other casinos was in the parking lot.

When officers arrived, the driver of the car drove away, crashed and then fled on foot.

Clemens said Kovatch was later found in the hallway of an apartment complex in the 5500 block of West Christopher Place and arrested without incident.

As of 11 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 27, South Dakota's Unified Judicial System had only logged one count of grand theft between $2,500 and $5,000 against Kovatch. If convicted, the Class 5 felony is punishable by up to five years in prison and fines of up to $10,000.

In separate criminal proceedings from earlier this year, Kovatch is also facing another grand theft charge as well as miscellaneous drug charges.

He's set to appear in court to answer to the latest grand theft charges on Tuesday afternoon.

Patrick Lalley is the engagement editor and reporter for Sioux Falls Live. Reach him at
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