One embezzlement suspect still at large
District Attorney Jon Alexander said his office has been sharing evidence gathered so far in the case with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, U.S. Department of Interior and the FBI.
“There is no firm decision yet as to whether there will be a transfer, but we are exploring that option,” said Alexander.
The federal government is interested in prosecuting the case because a majority of the money allegedly embezzled was from funds allocated for the Endangered Species Act by the Federal Bureau of Indian Affairs, Alexander said.
Former Yurok Director of Forestry Roland Raymond is suspected of bilking more than $900,000 from the Yurok Tribe over nearly a three-year span with the aid of an environmental association and auto body shop based in Eureka, according to an affidavit compiled by DA’s Office investigator A.C. Field.
Raymond remains at large.
The Yurok Tribe has yet to make a public statement after authorities served searched warrants in Humboldt County on Feb. 23 in connection with the case.
A majority of the money — $870,064 — is alleged to have been siphoned from the Yuroks’ coffers for spotted owl surveys that were not completed by Mad River Biologists, a consortium of scientists based in Eureka,a court document states.
Raymond is alleged to have employed the help of Ron LeValley, 65, and Sean McAllister, 45, both biologists at Mad River Biologists located in Old Town Eureka.
LeValley was previously listed as the consortium’s senior biologist on the Mad River web site. A tab delineating its staff has since been removed.
A majority of the suspected 75 fraudulent invoices for the owl surveys involved four areas and were supposedly conducted throughout all months of the year, the court document states.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service protocol for surveying management activities on lands that may impact the Northern spotted owl states that the survey period in California can be from March 1 through August. Owl spotting surveys must be given to the service before any land management can occur where the owls may live.
The protocol also calls for a survey area to be completed within a week and that each area should have six visits per year in a two-year survey. Visits performed outside of the survey period do not count unless confirmed by the USFWS.
The Yurok Tribe has turned in less than five surveys to the federal Fish and Wildlife Service in the past three years, said Kathleen Brubaker, lead endangered species biologist for the service. Those surveys were for smaller land management projects such as road decommissioning; none was intended for timber harvesting projects that Brubaker could recall.
LeValley and McAllister were arrested Feb. 23 on suspicion of embezzlement, burglary and conspiracy after several agencies from Del Norte and Humboldt counties served search warrants on three locations in Humboldt: the Mad River Biologists building, Wonder Bros. Auto Body and Raymond’s home.
McAllister was arrested at the consortium’s building and LeValley later turned himself in to Del Norte authorities.
At their arraignment a few days after their arrest, LeValley’s attorney, Bill Bragg, stated his client thought he was helping the Yurok Tribe by reallocating funds.
“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.
He declined to expound on his statements made in court.
The District Attorney’s Office has determined close to $500,000 was last touched by McAllister through banking receipts, the court document states. It has also traced about $129,000 transferred from the consortium’s account to LeValley’s account, the document states.
Greg Rael, McAllister’s attorney, declined comment about whether McAllister also thought he was helping the tribe reallocate funds.
“Regarding the disappearance or evaporation of $870,000 in federal funds ... if that indeed were true, Mr. LeValley would rank with Bill Gates as being one of the premiere philanthropists in America,” said Alexander. “Sadly, our records and investigation do not appear to support that laudable thesis.”
LeValley and McAllister are scheduled to have a hearing in Del Norte on May 1 for an update on the federal government’s decision.