$900,000 in Spotted Owl Funds Filched
CRESCENT CITY, Calif. (CN) - Yurok Tribe Forestry Director and two Eureka biologists are suspected of embezzling $900,000 for spotted owl research, according to a report in the Eureka Times-Standard. The alleged scheme reportedly involved then tribal Forestry Director Roland Raymond's submitting false invoices to the Yurok Tribe on behalf of Sean McAllister and Ron LeValley, of Mad River Biologists.
The Yurok Tribe approached the Del Norte District Attorney's Office in October when an inventory search could not locate equipment that Raymond had supposedly bought when he worked for them, the Times-Standard reported.
"At least $870,000 of the embezzled funds are specifically related to the spotted owl project," Del Norte County District Attorney Jon Alexander told the paper.
The DA's search warrant, filed in the case Thursday, indicates there are Yurok Tribe checks cashed by McAllister, receipts of large cash withdrawals, transfers to LeValley's personal account and checks sent from LeValley to Raymond.
The biologists were to do survey work on the northern spotted owl on tribal land, but the work was never done, Alexander told the paper. He also said the case caught the attention of the U.S. Attorney's Office, as it involves the theft of federal funds.
Associate biologist Sean McAllister reportedly was arrested Thursday afternoon, senior biologist Ron LeValley turned himself in Thursday evening and officials are still searching for Raymond.
District Attorney Alexander told the Times-Standard that "embezzling from a cause that's trying to protect natural resources and animals is especially offensive" and that the case would be "vigorously prosecuted."
The two biologists reputations were beyond reproach, many in the biology community told the paper.
Raymond also appears to have been well respected, and was named the Yurok Tribe's "Director of the Year" in 2009, according to the Times-Standard.