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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: California | North Coast | Environment & Forest Defense | Government & Elections
Alleged embezzlement by forestry director, MLPA official outrages Yurok Tribe
"The Tribal Council understands the outrage that we all may feel as the victims of these alleged crimes," said Thomas O'Rourke, Chair of the Yurok Tribal Council.
Ron LeValley, the second person from the right in the background, served as Co-Chair of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Task Force "Science Advisory Team." Photo by David Gurney.
Alleged embezzlement by forestry director, MLPA official outrages Yurok Tribe
by Dan Bacher
The Yurok Tribal Council, in a letter to Tribal Members on February 14, expressed "great disappointment and outrage" over "serious allegations of theft of Tribal resources" by two biologists and the former Yurok Forestry Department Director.
In a scandal that has rocked the North Coast, the Del Norte District Attorney Jon Alexander on February 23 arrested Ron LeValley, the Co-Chair of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Science Advisory Team, and a fellow Mad River biologist on $1 million warrants accusing them of burglary, embezzlement and conspiracy to commit a crime.
The Del Norte County District Attorney alleges that the two well-known biologists participated in an elaborate embezzlement scheme headed by former Yurok Tribe Forestry Director Roland Raymond that bilked the tribe out of $900,000 that was supposed to fund spotted owl research.
"It is alleged, based on an ongoing investigation, that Mr. Raymond conspired to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Yurok Tribe," according to the letter signed by Thomas O'Rourke, Chair of the Yurok Tribal Council. "The original source of the funding was Federal Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) funds for Endangered Species Act Surveys and other forestry activities. It is alleged that Mr. Raymond worked with at least two or more individuals, some associated with Mad River biologists, to steal money from the Tribe."
"Additionally it is alleged that Mr. Raymond used Tribal credit cards to make numerous purchases for various purposes and equipment that were for personal use and or equipment that he kept," the letter continued. "No other individuals working for the Tribe appear to be any illegal activities hower the internal investigation is ongoing."
O'Rourke said arrest warrants had been taken out for Raymond and the two Mad River biologists.
He informed Tribal members that, as part of the internal investigation, the Tribe would institute a series of measures including the hiring of a Controller and Auditor General; the hiring of an Accounting Fraud Examiner; and the implementation of an independent review of its fiscal and associated procedures. He also said the Tribe would institute interim procurement procedures to provide additional safeguards and institute any other procedures or safeguards deemed necessary.
"The Tribal Council understands the outrage that we all may feel as the victims of these alleged crimes. The Tribe will provide more information shortly and will continue to insure that these alleged crimes that are subject to the fullest prosecution under the law," O'Rourke concluded.
Court documents back up the contentions in O'Rourke's letter. They outline how Raymond, LeValley and McCallister allegedly used an elaborate system of fake invoices, false purchase requests and electronic bank transfers to embezzle money from the Tribe during a three-year period, according to the Eureka Times Standard.
"The documents state that 75 tribal checks were deposited into a Mad River Biologists account from February 2008 to December 2010. The checks totaled $870,064.91," the Times Standard stated. (http://www.times-standard.com/localnews/ci_20043580)
Ironically, Del Norte County District Attorney Jon Alexander, who is prosecuting LeValley and the other two suspects in the embezzlement case, has some big problems of his own now. "Alexander has undermined his efforts to reinvent himself with numerous lapses, now resulting in an FBI probe and State Bar of California investigations on top of prior suspensions of his law license," according to the February 26 Sacramento Bee (http://www.sacbee.com/2012/02/26/4291502/from-meth-addict-to-del-norte.html).
LeValley and McCallister both appeared in court on Thursday, March 1 for bail hearings, while Raymond is still at large.
McAllister's bail was reduced by a judge Monday to $50,000. He posted bail Monday evening and is out of custody.
LeValley is still in custody, but a judge has reduced his bail to $150,000. "The judge ordered that LeValley surrender his passport and check in with the probation department every day if he posts bail," according to the Eureka Times Standard. "Alexander said he argued that LeValley’s bail should remain at $1 million." (http://www.times-standard.com/localnews/ci_20086112?source=rss)
Science panel turned down Yurok Tribe presentation request
The scandal has served to spotlight LeValley's controversial role as the Co-Chair of the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative's Science Advisory Team (SAT), a panel created by an unaccountable, privately funded process characterized by numerous conflicts of interest, corruption and the violation of many state and federal laws.
The lack of integrity of LeValle and other "scientists" on the MLPA Science Advisory Team was demonstrated in August 2010 when the SAT turned down a request by lawyers and scientists of the Yurok Tribe, the same Tribe he is accused of embezzling money from, to make a presentation to the MLPA Science Advisory Team.
Among other data, they were going to present data of test results from other marine reserves regarding mussels (http://blogs.alternet.org/danbacher/2011/07/15/tribal-science-challenges-mlpa-initiative-assumptions).
“The data would have shown that there was not a statistical difference in the diversity of species from the harvested and un-harvested areas,” wrote John Corbett, Yurok Tribe Senior Attorney, in a letter to the Science Advisory Team on January 12, 2011. “The presentation would have encompassed the work of Smith, J.R. Gong and RF Ambrose, 2008, ‘The Impacts of Human Visitation on Mussel Bed Communities along the California Coast: Are Regulatory Marine Reserves Effective in Protecting these Communities.’”
Apparently, the “scientists” and MLPA officials didn’t want to see data that conflicted with their pre-determined conclusions. No Tribal scientists were allowed to serve on the MLPA Science Advisory Team, in spite of the fact that the Yurok and other North Coast Indian Tribes have large natural resources and fisheries departments staffed with many fishery biologists and other scientists.
The Science Advisory Team was also the focus of a protest by Tribal members organized by the Klamath Justice Coalition and Coastal Justice Coalition on June 29, 2010. Members of local Tribes interrupted the meeting of the group that LeValley co-chaired, demanding that they not be blamed for the decline in ocean fisheries.
"We gathered and harvested the ocean's bounty for thousand of years in a sustainable manner," said Frankie Joe Myers, a Yurok ceremonial leader and member of the Coastal Justice Coalition. "For California to blame Tribes for its reckless mis-management of our fisheries for the last century is simply appalling."
To watch the video of the protest, go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qcox-tHsJNw. Note that LeValley is the second person to introduce himself at the meeting.
The June protest was followed on July 21, 2010 by a historic direct action by over 300 people, including members of 50 Tribal Nations, recreational anglers, commercial fishermen, immigrant seafood workers, environmentalists and human rights advocates, at an MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force meeting in Fort Bragg.
"The MLPA process completely disregards tribal gathering rights and only permits discussion of commercial and recreational harvest," said Frankie Joe Myers before the group peacefully shut down the meeting. “The whole process is inherently flawed by institutionalized racism. It doesn’t recognize Tribes as political entities, or Tribal biologists as legitimate scientists.”
In addition to serving as Co-Chair of the MLPA Science Advisory Team, LeValley may have been involved in the cover-up of an endangered blue whale killed by a boat conducting a survey for the MLPA Initiative off Fort Bragg in October 2009, according to independent journalist David Gurney (http://noyonews.net/?p=4931).
When looks at all of the available facts and evidence, it is no surprise that LeValley has been arrested on charges of burglary, embezzlement and conspiracy to commit a crime.
Investigation of LeValley's role on MLPA panel is needed
In my opinion, it should be no surprise that a "scientist" willing to serve as a top official in such a corrupt process would be arrested on charges of embezzlement from the Yurok Tribe. If the allegations turn out to be true, there should be a complete and independent investigation of LeValley’s role on the MLPA Science Advisory Team to see he if was engaged in similar activities in the MLPA process as the ones he was arrested for.
The MLPA Initiative is funded by the shadowy Resources Legacy Fund Foundation and backed by some of the worst corporate greenwashers on the planet, including the Western States Petroleum Association, Walmart and Safeway Stores.
In an overt case of corporate greenwashing, Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the president of the Western States Petroleum Association, served as chair of the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force that created the questionable “marine protected areas” that went into effect on the Southern California coast on January 1, 2012. She also served on the task forces for the North Central and North Central Coasts. The Western States Petroleum Association represents California’s major refiners including BP Plc, Chevron, Exxon Mobil Corporation and Tesoro.
The so-called “marine protected areas” created under the corrupt MLPA Initiative fail to protect the ocean from oil drilling and spills, water pollution, wave and wind energy projects, military testing, corporate aquaculture, habitat destruction and all other human impacts upon the ocean other than fishing and gathering. These “marine protected areas” are in reality “marine polluted areas,” due to the lack of aggressive water quality protections allowed under the Initiative, and “marine poaching areas,” due to the lack of enough DFG wardens to enforce the new fishing regulations along the California coast.
There must be a complete, thorough and independent investigation into conflicts of interest and corruption under Arnold Schwarzenegger's Marine Life Protection Act Initiative to create so-called "marine protected areas" on the California coast.
The California Legislature, which has oversight authority on the implementation of the MLPA, should investigate how Catherine Reheis-Boyd, a real estate executive, marina developer, agribusiness hack and other political operatives with numerous conflicts of interest were allowed to make decisions regarding the creation of so-called marine protected areas.
What behind-the-scene deals were made to allow a supporter of offshore oil drilling, the Keystone XL pipeline and the evisceration of environmental laws like Reheis-Boyd to chair a process on the South Coast that kicks sustainable fishermen and gatherers off the water?
Were the "marine protected areas" crafted to let the oil industry, corporate polluters and other ocean industrialists off the hook?
And how did an alleged embezzler get appointed to the "Science" Advisory Team?
These are just some of the hard questions that the Legislature and State Attorney General's Office need to ask about the MLPA Initiative, but have to date refused to deal with. The corporate media, with a few exceptions, has also been shamefully complicit in allowing the MLPA Initiative to proceed forward without asking these tough questions.
Stay tuned for more breaking news on this embezzlement scandal as it develops.