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Former Yurok employee, Eureka biologists allegedly embezzle tribal funds; Del Norte DA's Office said more than $900,000 stolen

Megan Hansen, The Times-Standard February 24, 2012
A former Yurok Tribal employee and two Eureka biologists are suspected of embezzling more than $900,000 from the Yurok Tribe, according to officials with the Del Norte County District Attorney's Office.

Del Norte County District Attorney Jon Alexander said Thursday that warrants were issued for the arrest of former Yurok Tribe Forestry Director Roland Raymond, senior biologist Ron LeValley with Mad River Biologists and associate biologist Sean McAllister with Mad River Biologists. All the warrants were for $1 million and allege the men committed crimes of burglary, embezzlement and conspiracy to commit a crime.

Alexander said McAllister was arrested Thursday afternoon, and LeValley turned himself in to Del Norte County officials around 8 p.m. Thursday. Officials are still searching for Raymond.

Officers with the Yurok Tribal Police and investigators from the Humboldt and Del Norte district attorney's offices spent much of Thursday serving a search warrant at Raymond's home -- an off-white house with burgundy trim -- on the 2200 block of Hillcrest Avenue just outside Eureka city limits.

Law enforcement officials searched a black Dodge Ram in front of the residence and later were seen loading computer equipment and a safe they'd seized from Raymond's residence into waiting police trucks.

Del Norte County District Attorney's Office investigator A.C. Field said Raymond is believed to have embezzled funds from the Yurok Tribe while working for them.

”He was allegedly submitting false invoices to the Yurok Tribe on behalf of businesses we believe he was conspiring with,” Field said. “We believe he conspired and allegedly stole over $900,000.”

Raymond was named director of the year in 2009, according to a Yurok tribal newsletter called “The Voice of the Yurok People.” In addition, a book by Save the Redwoods League called “The redwood forest: history, ecology, and conservation of the coast redwoods,” lists Raymond as a contributor. The book states Raymond received his bachelor's from Humboldt State University and is a Yurok Tribal member.

Yurok Tribe spokesman Matt Mais said the tribe expects to issue a formal statement about the case on Monday.

Field said the investigation started in October when the Yurok Tribe came to the Del Norte County District Attorney's Office with information about Raymond. He said the district attorney's office has had the full cooperation of the tribe during the investigation.

”The Yurok Tribe discovered missing items during an inventory search, and it spilled out from there,” Field said. “They couldn't find the equipment (Raymond) supposedly bought.”

Alexander said the alleged embezzlement is related to spotted owl research by Mad River Biologists and other incidents, including charging the tribe for the cost of putting tires on a personal vehicle and paying for new shower doors. He said at least $870,000 of the embezzled funds are specifically related to the spotted owl project.

Co-conspirators LeValley and McAllister both work for the Eureka-based biology company, located on Second Street. According to the Mad River Biologists' website, LeValley founded the company in 1982 and received his master's degree from Humboldt State University. The site states he presently serves as treasurer of the Pacific Seabird Group, as an associate editor for Western Birds, and as California coordinator of the Pacific Coast Joint Venture.

Alexander said McAllister was arrested Thursday while at the Mad River Biologists office. The business' website states McAllister attended college in Humboldt County and that his expertise in the field is with local threatened and endangered species, such as the Northern spotted owl.

Alexander said his office will be prosecuting the case against all three men. He said any form of embezzlement involves a breach of trust, but that embezzling from a cause that's trying to protect natural resources and animals is especially offensive.

”This case will be vigorously prosecuted,” Alexander said.

According to Field, the Del Norte County Attorney's Office has been aided in the investigation by the Humboldt County District Attorney's Office, Yurok Tribal Police, the Eureka Police Department and the Bureau of Automotive Repair.


Times-Standard staff reporter Thadeus Greenson contributed to this report.

Megan Hansen can be reached at 441-0511 or mhansen@times-standard.com.




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