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Alleged embezzler Roland Raymond surrenders to authorities
Roland Raymond, the former Yurok Tribe Forestry Director and a fugitive-at-large from the $900,000 Yurok Tribe embezzlement case, turned himself into the Del Norte County District Attorney’s Office at 9:30 a.m. Thursday after negotiations on Wednesday evening.
Raymond had been at large since the February 23rd execution of search and arrest warrants at his Eureka home, according to a statement from the District Attorney's Office.
The case stems from the District Attorney’s five-month investigation of over $870,000 in Federal funds appropriated to the Yurok Tribe for wildlife preservation, including the spotted owl research project conducted by Eureka-based Mad River Biologists.
"Records indicate that other funding misappropriations by Mr. Raymond put the overall figure closer to one million dollars," the District Attorney's Office stated.
Co-Defendants Mad River Biologists founder and director Ronald LeValley and Associate Sean McAllister have already been arrested and charged with Felony Embezzlement of Public Funds, Grand Theft and Conspiracy.
Ron LeValley served as the Co-Chair of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Science Advisory Team that oversaw the creation of controversial "marine protected areas" on the North Coast.
Raymond pleads not guilty
At 1:15 p.m., during Mr. Raymond’s arraignment, Del Norte Superior Court Judge Philip Schafer accepted Raymond’s not guilty plea to Embezzlement of Public Funds, Grand Theft and Conspiracy.
During the discussion of bail, District Attorney Jon Alexander cited the fact that Raymond, as the Yurok Tribe’s Director of Forestry, was the "chief principal in the conspiracy" and had been at large since late February. Alexander asked for and received a one million dollar bail amount on Mr. Raymond.
The Del Norte District Attorney’s Office has been in communication with the Department of the Interior, the F.B.I. and the U.S. Attorney’s Office regarding their possible trial of the case in federal court.
"Given the majority, if not total amount of embezzled funds being federal, we were glad to assist our colleagues in the federal government with our investigation, arrests and criminal charging," said Alexander.
“The Yurok Tribe is an integral part of Del Norte County. The fact that Roland Raymond and his co-conspirators used conservation programs designed to protect creatures and wildlife sacred to their culture, makes this crime especially offensive to me and it will be pursued vigorously,” said Alexander.
The Yurok Tribe hasn't yet issued any formal statement about the case, but the Tribal Council on February 14 sent a letter to all Tribal members expressing "great disappointment and outrage" over "serious allegations of theft of Tribal resources" by two biologists and the former Yurok Forestry Department Director.
"The Tribal Council understands the outrage that we all may feel as the victims of these alleged crimes," said Thomas O'Rourke, Chair of the Yurok Tribal Council. "The Tribe will provide more information shortly and will continue to insure that these alleged crimes that are subject to the fullest prosecution under the law."
O'Rourke informed Tribal members that, as part of the internal investigation, the Tribe would institute a series of measures including the hiring of a Controller and Auditor General; the hiring of an Accounting Fraud Examiner; and the implementation of an independent review of its fiscal and associated procedures. He also said the Tribe would institute "interim procurement procedures to provide additional safeguards and institute any other procedures or safeguards deemed necessary."
Ron LeValley’s attorney, Bill Bragg, "stated his client thought he was helping the Yurok Tribe by reallocating funds," according to the Crescent City Triplicate.
“Mr. LeValley finds himself in this situation because of the trust he placed in Roland Raymond, who he had known for many years as a trusted manager for the tribe,” said Bragg in a recent interview with the Triplicate. (http://www.triplicate.com/News/Local-News/Feds-eye-biologists-fraud-case)
Can MLPA Initiative science be trusted in light of embezzlement charges?
The arrest of Ronald LeValley on charges of Felony Embezzlement of Public Funds, Grand Theft and Conspiracy have led many to question the integrity of decisions made by the MLPA Science Advisory Team.
"How are we to trust any of the science of the 'Initiative' – when the Co-Chair of the MLPA Initiative’s 'Science Advisory Team' Ron LeValley, was recently arrested on felony fraud and embezzlement charges?," said David Gurney, Co-Chair of the Ocean Protection Coalition, in his comments regarding the Draft Environmental Impact Report for North Coast "marine protected areas." (http://noyonews.net/?p=5270)
"The science used for implementation of these MLPA closures needs to be fully and independently investigated and verified, following Mr. LeValley's felony arrest. Until then, none of the science in this DEIR can be considered valid," Gurney emphasized.
Ironically, LeValley and other scientists on the MLPA Science Advisory Team (SAT) in August 2010 turned down a request by lawyers and scientists of the Yurok Tribe, the same Tribe he is accused of embezzling money from, to make a presentation to the Advisory Team.
Among other data, they were going to present data of test results from other marine reserves regarding mussels (http://blogs.alternet.org/danbacher/2011/07/15/tribal-science-challenges-mlpa-initiative-assumptions).
“The data would have shown that there was not a statistical difference in the diversity of species from the harvested and un-harvested areas,” wrote John Corbett, Yurok Tribe Senior Attorney, in a letter to the Science Advisory Team on January 12, 2011. “The presentation would have encompassed the work of Smith, J.R. Gong and RF Ambrose, 2008, ‘The Impacts of Human Visitation on Mussel Bed Communities along the California Coast: Are Regulatory Marine Reserves Effective in Protecting these Communities.’”
MLPA critics charge that the SAT turned down the Tribe's request because they didn’t want to see data that conflicted with their pre-determined conclusions.
No Tribal scientists were allowed to serve on the MLPA Science Advisory Team, in spite of the fact that the Yurok and other North Coast Indian Tribes have large natural resources and fisheries departments staffed with many fishery biologists and other scientists.
Yurok Tribe challenges MLPA "take" assumptions
This March, Yurok Tribe officials raised several issues they thought were ignored in the draft environmental impact report for the North Coast "marine protected areas," including the traditional harvesting done by Native Americans for thousands of years.
"John Corbett, senior attorney for the Yurok Tribe, said the MLPA’s Science Advisory Team (SAT) did not assess the level of Indian take. Corbett also said that the 'level of protection assumption' used by the SAT overestimates the amount of fishing that could be done in the proposed marine reserves," according to the Crescent City Triplicate. (http://www.triplicate.com/News/Local-News/Tribes-take-issue-with-restrictions)
"The assumption assumes that recreational harvest will occur at the maximum extent allowed by law, meaning that every one of the 2 million recreational fishing license holders in California are fishing for the maximum amount of mussels allowed every day in North Coast marine reserves, Corbett said," the Triplicate stated.
Corbett emphasized, "It’s impossible. It could not happen.
The California Fish and Game Commission will discuss proposed changes to the "marine protected areas" (MPAs) for the North Coast at its meeting starting at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, April 11 at the Red Lion Hotel, 1929 4th Street, Eureka. The Commission will also receive public comment on the DEIR for the North Coast MPAs.
For more information, go to: http://www.fgc.ca.gov/meetings/2012/041112agd.pdf.
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Page Updated: Saturday April 07, 2012 04:29 PM Pacific
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