A statement promised Monday by the Yurok tribe to explain their response to a massive embezzlement scheme did not materialize. Instead, a recent letter, dated Feb. 14, 2012, surfaced this morning in the Eureka Times Standard.
The two-page letter confirms that although the investigation is ongoing, allegations brought by Del Norte County law enforcement appear to be valid.
The letter states:
“While there is still an ongoing investigation as to the extent of the alleged theft by Mr. Raymond, the Tribal Council provides this letter to inform you that these alleged illegal activities have occurred. The Tribal Council wants to be clear that it is committed to ensure that any illegal activities will be subject to the fullest prosecution under the law.”
The letter mentions Yurok Tribal member Roland Raymond by name, who while serving as the tribe’s Forestry Department Director, bilked the Bureau of Indian Affairs through the tribe of over $870,000 during a two or three year period. The funds were allegedly embezzled for fraudulent Spotted-Owl surveys. The spotted owl is an endangered species, and protection of its habitat has been a key issue in the conservation of North Coast forestlands.
Also included are assurances that oversight of programs and expenditures will improve in the future, along with an “independent review” of its fiscal procedures.
As of Monday night, Mr. Raymond remained at large. His alleged two co-conspirators in the scheme were arrested last Thursday on charges of embezzlement, burglary and conspiracy to commit a crime. As of yesterday, Ron LeValley’s bail remained at one million dollars, while his partner with “Mad River Biologists” Sean McAllister had his bail reduced to $50,000. The two are scheduled to be arraigned on Thursday.
The arrest renewed questions in this reporter’s mind about the role that Ron LeValley played in the cover-up of a whale-strike accident in 2009. LeValley showed up at the scene of the crime, with offers of financial support from undisclosed sources to clean up and bury the body of the whale.
The circumstances of the whale-strike later revealed improper licensing, and illegal operations by the hydrographic survey vessel and its contracting agencies. Later, a blatant cover-up by both state and federal officials occured.
Though the geographic survey was being conducted in state waters for the privately funded Marine Life Protection Act “Initiative” under the auspices of California Seafloor Mapping Project, officials were quick to claim that the federal National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) was the responsible agency. The hushed-up investigation was turned over to NOAA, which then investigated itself. MLPAI offcials claimed no responsibility for the accident, nor did they issue an apology.
While the community was recovering in shock from the accident, LeValley very publicly espoused that the mapping vessel’s sonar could not have affected the whale, that sonar does not affect baleen whales, that a marine mammal observer would not have seen the whale, that whales are no smarter than cows, and other glaring misinformation surrounding the accident.
Two months later, he sat next to the Executive Director of the MLPAI, as co-chair of the “Initiative’s” Science Advisory Team.
Noyo News hopes that with Ron LeValley’s arrest, more answers surrounding the Oct. 2009 whale strike will finally come to light.