A jury is expected to be seated today for the trial of a former Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians accountant and an ex-insurance broker who are accused of stealing $4 million from the Temecula-based tribe by diverting insurance funds into their personal bank accountants.
James William Riley, 48, of Corona and Ryan Jay Robinson, 41, of Temecula were indicted in February 2010 on multiple felonies stemming from a scam that the pair allegedly perpetrated in 2006 and 2007. Riley is free on $1 million bail, and Robinson is free on a $120,000 bond.
Riley -- a former insurance broker and partner at Riley, Garrison & Associates -- could face 15 years in prison and six-figure fines if convicted of three counts each of grand theft, commercial burglary and money laundering.
Robinson, the Pechanga tribe's former chief financial officer, is facing up to
10 years behind bars if convicted of grand theft and three counts of burglary.
Riverside County Superior Court Judge Elisabeth Sichel began summoning
prospective jurors to her downtown Riverside courtroom Thursday to determine
their availability and qualifications.
A final group of 30 prospective jurors was called up Monday afternoon, and jury selection is expected to wrap up later today. Opening statements could begin this afternoon or Wednesday.
The District Attorney's Office alleges that the defendants conspired to swindle the Pechanga tribe out of money intended to pay property insurance premiums for the Pechanga Development Corp.
According to the D.A.'s office, Riley allegedly artificially inflated premiums paid to Riley, Garrison & Associates, keeping the overage and paying Robinson more than $100,000 to disguise the transactions as legitimate.
The ill-gotten gains were funneled through several bank accounts before Riley withdrew the money in the form of cashier's checks, prosecutors allege.
The tribe initiated an internal probe that led to a criminal investigation and grand jury indictments.
"At best, these individuals violated the tribe's trust and broke their fiduciary duty to our people," tribal Chairman Mark Macarro said in February 2010. "At worst, they committed crimes against our tribe."