Flanked by two U.S. marshals, Roland Raymond, 49, appeared at the federal courthouse in Eureka. Dressed in an orange jumpsuit, Raymond listened as U.S. Magistrate Judge Nandor Vadas informed him of the charge against him.
Vadas and prosecuting attorney Phil Kearney, an assistant attorney with U.S. Department of Justice, were in San Francisco today and appeared via video conference. As Vadas tried to explain the charge, it became apparent Raymond was having trouble hearing him.
I'm actually legally deaf. I don't have any hearing aids, Raymond said to the judge.
Eureka attorney Randall Davis, who was appointed by Vadas to defend Raymond, repeated some of the judge's questions to Raymond. Raymond ultimately pleaded not guilty to the embezzlement charge.
The judge granted Kearney's request that Raymond remain in custody.
He's believed to be a flight risk. We believe him to be an active narcotics user and gambler, Kearney said.
In addition, he said Raymond was a fugitive from Feb. 23 to April 5, after authorities served search warrants at his home on the 2200 block of Hillcrest Avenue just outside Eureka city limits. He was wanted on a $1 million warrant before he turned himself in to authorities.
Vadas ruled Raymond would remain in custody. His next court date is Aug. 21 at the federal courthouse for a detention hearing.
Davis said the hearing will determine whether Raymond remains in custody for the duration of the case or is released on certain conditions. Davis said he had no further comment.
If convicted , Vadas said Raymond faces five years in prison, at least a $250,000 fine and a three-year term of supervised release.
Raymond and his two co-conspirators are accused of using an elaborate system of fake invoices, false purchase requests and electronic bank transfers to embezzle more than $870,000 in federal funds from the Yurok Tribe during a three-year period of wildlife preservation studies. Raymond is suspected of embezzling additional funds from the tribe and the California Indian Forest and Fire Management Council through other false purchase requests, putting the embezzlement total in the $1 million range.
Federal charges have not been filed against biologists Sean McAllister and Ron LeValley, who Del Norte County prosecutors and an FBI agent investigating the case allege conspired with Raymond to embezzle the funds from the Yurok Tribe through the consulting company Mad River Biologists. Both McAllister and LeValley have pleaded not guilty to state embezzlement and conspiracy charges.
LeValley and McAllister are due in Del Norte County Superior Court on Sept. 27 for a status hearing in their case.