The U.S. Attorney's Office filed a criminal complaint Thursday against Roland Raymond, 49, charging him with a single count of embezzlement from an Indian tribal organization. Raymond is scheduled to make his initial appearance in the case Monday in the federal courthouse in Eureka.
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 along with Raymond to embezzle the funds from the Yurok Tribe through the consulting company Mad River Biologists.
The local biology community was shaken on Feb. 23 when authorities served a number of search warrants throughout the county, alleging that Raymond, LeValley and McAllister used 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 preservations studies.
The scheme allegedly saw LeValley and McAllister submit at least 75 false invoices over the span of three years billing the Yurok Tribe for wildlife surveys their company never performed on the “Gerber/Gleason, Cook Kopalla and Green Diamond tracts of land.”
According to court documents in the case, LeValley and McAllister are alleged to have distributed the money paid to the company by the tribe between themselves and Raymond.
The surveys that allegedly were never conducted primarily purported to be for spotted owl research aimed at determining which tracts of tribal properties could be logged. It's unclear whether the alleged conspiracy impacted any timber harvest plans, or may have led to the destruction of habitat forests of the northern spotted owl, a federally endangered species.
Authorities also allege Raymond embezzled from the California Indian Forest and Fire Management Council, using council funds to make personal purchases.
Raymond, LeValley and McAllister have all pleaded not guilty to state embezzlement and conspiracy charges, but their cases have been repeatedly delayed to allow the U.S. Attorney's Office time to review the case and, possibly, take over their prosecutions.
Reached Friday, U.S. Attorney's Office spokesman Jack Gillund said he could not comment on whether the office is pursuing federal charges against LeValley and McAllister.
”I can neither confirm nor deny,” he said.
Del Norte County District Attorney Jon Alexander told the Times-Standard on Friday that he doesn't know if the federal government is planning on prosecuting LeValley and McAllister.
Alexander said he's not planning on dismissing his case against Raymond at this point. State charges are often dismissed when similar federal charges are filed against a defendant, as dual prosecutions are seen as redundant. Alexander said he wants to see how the federal prosecution -- to be handled by Deputy U.S. Attorney Dave Calloway -- plays out.
”It is my inclination to continue (Raymond's) case here,” Alexander wrote in an email to the Times-Standard. “I have every faith in Mr. Calloway, however given the egregiousness of the case and the devastation to the Yurok Tribe and forestry program, I would like to see whatever sentence Mr. Raymond receives before concluding his case in my jurisdiction.”
According to the criminal complaint, Raymond faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison if convicted of the federal charge.
LeValley's attorney Bill Bragg said he was aware the U.S. Attorney's Office was reviewing a potential case against his client, but said he had not received any notification of charges filed against the biologist. Bragg said he's arranged representation in the San Francisco Bay Area for his client in the event that he is charged federally.
Local attorney Greg Rael, who is representing McAllister in the case out of Del Norte County, was not immediately available for comment today.
In his affidavit in support of charges filed against Raymond, FBI Special Agent Justin K. Badger states LeValley and McAllister appear to be culpable in the case.
”Based on the above evidence, I believe Raymond conspired with Ron LeValley and Sean McAllister to embezzle $870,064.91 from the Yurok Tribe,” Badger writes, adding that his investigation depended on information provided by the Del Norte County District Attorney's Office, the Department of the Interior, the Office of the Inspector General and other FBI agents.
LeValley and McAllister are due in Del Norte County Superior Court on Sept. 27 for a status hearing in their case.