CRESCENT CITY, Calif. (CN) – The Del Norte District Attorney issued warrants for a former Yurok Tribe Forestry Director and two Eureka biologists, who are suspected of embezzling $870,000 of northern spotted owl funds from the Yurok Tribe, according to District Attorney’s Office Investigator A.C. Field.
Former Forestry Director Roland Raymond allegedly submitted false invoices to the Yurok Tribe on behalf of two biologists, Sean McAllister and Ron LeValley, both of Mad River Biologists in Eureka, according to the Eureka Times-Standard. The men had been hired to survey the owl on Yurok tribal lands near Klamath, Calif., a step in protecting the endangered species, the paper reported.
The Yurok Tribe approached Del Norte District Attorney’s office in October after equipment that Raymond had supposedly bought when he worked for them could not be found, local papers reported.
The case has caught the attention of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, as it involves the theft of federal funds, Del Norte County District Attorney Jon Alexander told the Eureka Times-Standard.
D.A. Investigator A.C. Field described the investigation in an interview.
“We singled out 75 checks that were written to Mad River Biologists. The ones singled out showed large amounts of money being transferred instead of being kept for later use,” Field said.
The money was allegedly stolen, at an average of $12,000 per transaction, in one of three ways, according to Field.
In the first and last transactions, and 16 others, the money allegedly was placed into the Mad River Biologists account, and a lower amount was electronically transferred to a personal account, and then a personal check was written to Raymond., according to Field.
In 26 incidents of alleged embezzlement, Field said he found that money was placed into the bank and then the same amount was cashed out the next day by an MRB employee.
In the other incidents, the MRB employee allegedly requested and received “less cash” in the same transaction in which he deposited the check.
Associate biologist Sean McAllister was arrested, senior biologist Ron LeValley turned himself in, and officials are still searching for Raymond, according to local news reports.
The criminal complaint, filed Monday, Feb. 27, alleged misuse of public funds, with special circumstances for an amount over $100,000, and conspiracy.
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 Eureka Times-Standard.
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.