The prosecution rested today in the trial of a former accountant for the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians and an ex-insurance broker, who are accused of stealing about $4 million from the Temecula-based tribe by diverting funds reserved for insurance coverage.
James William Riley, 48, of Murrieta and Ryan Jay Robinson, 41, of Temecula were indicted in February 2010 on multiple felony charges stemming from a scam that the pair allegedly perpetrated between 2005 and 2007.
Riley, a former insurance broker and partner at Murrieta-based Riley, Garrison & Associates, could face 20 years in prison and six-figure fines if convicted of three counts each of grand theft, commercial bribery and money laundering. Robinson, the Pechanga tribe's former chief financial officer, is facing up to seven years behind bars if convicted of grand theft and three counts of bribery.
According to Riley's attorney, Souley Diallo, his client never committed a crime, and the prosecution's case boils down to a misunderstanding of complex financial arrangements. Chris Jensen, Robinson's legal counsel, acknowledged that his client received tens of thousands of dollars in cashier's checks from Riley, but said there's no evidence that the funds were part of a bribe or arose from a conspiracy to rip off the tribe.
The men's trial began July 11, and Riverside County Deputy District Attorney Jeanne Roy called her final witness this morning. Defense witnesses' testimony is expected to conclude Monday or Tuesday.
Last week, Roy displayed copies of documents drawn up by Riley that revealed how, in a one-month span in 2006, premiums on an insurance policy for the Pechanga Development Corp. went from $555,000 to $1.32 million. The prosecutor alleged the sum was artificially inflated by the defendant, who pocketed $410,000 in ``fees'' from the transaction.
Roy alleged Riley and Robinson began scamming the tribe shortly after Hurricane Katrina in September 2005. Commercial insurance rates went through the roof following the disaster, enabling the defendants to justify exorbitant insurance costs from which they were profiting, Roy said, alleging that Riley lived a lavish lifestyle while his co-defendant used $190,000 in ill-gotten gains to pay off gambling debts.
Riley is free on $1 million bail, and Robinson is free on a $120,000 bond.
— City News Service