Embezzlement sentencing pushed back; forestry director's hearing postponed; alleged accomplice works on plea deal

The sentencing of a former Yurok Tribe forestry director who conspired to embezzle almost $1 million has been postponed again.

Roland Raymond, 50, is now slated to be sentenced Dec. 23, when he will face a maximum sentence of five years in federal prison. Meanwhile, Raymond's alleged accomplice, Mad River Biologists founder Ron LeValley, is working on a plea deal with federal prosecutors, according to court documents.

Having pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiring to embezzle from an Indian tribal organization, Raymond was due to be sentenced in the case on Monday, but that date was postponed for unspecified reasons. Prior to Raymond's sentencing, the court will hold an evidentiary hearing to provide him an opportunity to dispute allegations that he lied to United States District Judge William Alsup at a Nov. 5 hearing.

LeValley -- who is alleged to have worked with Raymond to submit a string of fake invoices to the tribe charging for environmental surveys his company never conducted -- was due in court this week for a potential change of plea hearing.

His attorney William Kimball and the U.S. Attorney's Office filed a joint stipulation earlier this week asking the court to postpone the appearance.

"The reasons for the requested continuance are to afford the Yurok Tribe sufficient opportunity to share information with the government the Tribe believes is pertinent to plea negotiations, and to allow the parties sufficient time to evaluate that information," the stipulation states. "The parties currently anticipate that Mr. LeValley's next appearance before the court will be for a change of plea."

Alsup granted the request, setting a Jan. 21 court date in LeValley's case.

In his plea agreement, Raymond admitted to working with LeValley to use an elaborate scheme of fake invoices, false purchase requests and electronic bank transfers to embezzle more than $870,000 in federal funds from the Yurok Tribe during a three-year period of wildlife preservation studies.

The surveys that allegedly were never conducted were primarily for northern spotted owls to determine which tracts of tribal properties could be logged without impacting habitat of the federally endangered species. It's unclear whether the alleged conspiracy impacted timber harvest plans or led to the destruction of sensitive habitats.

Court documents in the case indicate that Raymond asked LeValley to submit the false invoices and to channel the money back to him, less a percentage off the top, saying he needed the additional funds to pay tribal forest and fire crews. The documents indicate the money never made it to the work crews, and was instead used by Raymond to support his gambling and drug addictions.

Raymond was slated to be sentenced last month, but the Yurok Tribe requested a continuance to allow it time to submit a victim impact statement to the court. Alsup granted the continuance over the objections of Raymond and his attorney. During that hearing, according to court minutes, Raymond told the court he'd been assaulted while in federal custody.

"Defendant then motioned to his mouth to indicate a tooth that he reportedly lost as a result of the attack," Alsup wrote in a subsequent court order. "The court has received information that no attack occurred and that defendant has a denture that he removed prior to the hearing to facilitate the appearance of losing a tooth."

Alsup ordered the U.S. Marshal Services to investigate the matter and to arrange for Raymond to have a dental examination that includes photographs and a subsequent report.

If Raymond is found to have lied to the judge, it would likely impact his sentencing and could potentially leave him facing additional criminal charges.

While Raymond faces a maximum sentence of five years in federal prison, prosecutors are recommending a sentence of 20 months, citing his cooperation with a federal investigation that led to the charging of LeValley. Raymond's attorney Randall Davis agrees with that recommendation, but argues his client should get credit for time already served behind bars and in home confinement, which would leave him facing a remaining seven months in prison.

Raymond remains in federal custody. LeValley is free after posting a $50,000 bond.

Thadeus Greenson can be reached at 441-0509 or tgreenson@times-standard.com. Follow him on Twitter @ThadeusGreenson.