Nicholas Wilson aka "Nick1"
You have said in a number of posts that Ron LeValley was the victim of those in authority abusing their power and implying that is the reason he was charged and found guilty of embezzlement. But you do admit that "Ron knew it was technically a violation of the terms of the federal grant, but believed it was for a good purpose."
The federal government does not overlook that sort of violation and the law does not allow the embezzlement of hundreds of thousands of dollars if the embezzler feels it is "for a good purpose". The government decides the "good purposes" it thinks are worthy of our tax dollars.
You say you find LeValley to be "completely trustworthy" and that is apparently the same sort of sentiment (and naivete) that caused Ron to collaborate with Roland Raymond. Ron trusted Raymond, but he also allowed him to channel federal funds through his consulting firm, Mad River Biologists, while providing Ron with money for "bonuses" for his employees. The level of trust LeValley and Raymond felt for each other does not decrease the criminality of their actions.
The "trust" that was violated in this case was the public trust, and the violation was LeValley and Raymond misappropriating and stealing public funds. Your personal feelings about LeValley's trustworthiness (or LeValley's feelings about Raymond) are unimportant when considering the crime that was committed.
J. Salter makes a good point above about how in our attempt to understand criminal behavior we look for circumstances that might cause someone to break the law. Drugs, alcohol, and gambling are frequently invoked as forcing factors as is severe emotional distress - i.e. "crimes of passion".
That is why the actions of the two biologists are so hard to comprehend and why friends and colleagues are struggling to understand what could have driven the alleged embezzlement. Some would almost rather hear that Levalley has some substance abuse issue that clouded his judgment than think with a clear mind he regularly laundered funds through his firm. If they were "clean, sober and right of mind" their actions are all the more inexcusable.
HSU prof, Mark Colwell, who is quoted in this article is actually the president of Mad River Biologists, While his collaboration with Levalley is mentioned his position with Mad River is not and it seems strange that the president of the company did not notice the large amount of money being laundered through his firm. The same page (on manta.com) that lists Colwell as "President", lists Levalley as "Owner". Tellingly, no name for a "Treasurer" is provided.
Those who feel LeValley's alleged criminal acts are completely out of character are failing to see how being "exceedingly generous" can also be seen as being "overly accommodating". This is not a bad trait to have in business if you are in a service industry and that clearly is how LeValley has made his money as he:
Led ecotours - taking people where they want to go
Sold bird images - showing people what they want to see
Did biological consulting - telling people what they want to hear
It appears he was simply accommodating a client by going along with Raymond's scheme.
And it does strike me as strange that someone who built his career in ecotourism and photography could develop a monopoly for training others in owl and plover research protocols. How the latter could occur would likely have a pretty clear paper trail.
Mitch at 8:51 asks
"why would you try to steal from a group that is giving you a lot of business?"
Levalley''s lawyer said in court that his client thought he was helping the tribe (i.e. he somehow thought that laundering federal funds for a cause he believed in was a good thing to do).
Mad River Biologists was not stealing from a group who could give them a lot of business. They were assisting a contracting officer (who could give them a lot of business) in a scam.
Will be interesting to see if either Levalley or his lawyer provide information on how the funds Levalley was laundering helped the Yurok and why he thought helping out through illegal means was somehow a good thing.
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In Print This Week:
Jan 19, 2017
vol XXVIII issue 3
The North Coast Journal Weekly
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