Jury deliberations got under way today in the trial of a former accountant for the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians and an ex- insurance broker, who are accused of teaming to steal about $4 million from the Temecula-based tribe by diverting funds reserved for insurance coverage.
James William Riley, 48, of Corona 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 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. The prosecution completed its closing statement Monday, and the defendants' attorneys finished their statements this morning.
Riverside County Superior Court Judge Elisabeth Sichel sent the jury behind closed doors to begin weighing the defendants' fates around 2 p.m.
Deputy District Attorney Jeanne Roy told jurors that 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 alleged.
She alleged that Riley artificially inflated the tribe's property and risk insurance premiums to pocket large sums disguised as fees, with Robinson's complicity. According to the prosecutor, Riley lived a lavish lifestyle while his co-defendant used $190,000 in ill-gotten gains to pay off gambling debts.
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. Riley is free on $1 million bail, and Robinson is free on a $120,000 bond.