A March 5 retrial date was confirmed today for two men accused of bilking the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians out of $4 million by skimming funds intended for the Temecula-based tribe’s casino insurance.
In July, a Riverside jury deadlocked on whether to convict James William Riley, 49, of Corona and Ryan Jay Robinson, 42, of Temecula on all of the felony charges against them, resulting in a mistrial.
The men’s attorneys, along with Riverside County Deputy District Attorney Jeanne Roy, appeared today before Superior Court Judge Helios Hernandez for a conference to set a date for a new trial, settling on the first week of March.
Hernandez ordered that both sides be ready to proceed then.
Riley and Robinson were indicted in February 2010 on multiple felony charges stemming from a scam that the District Attorney’s Office alleges the pair perpetrated in 2005 and 2006.
Riley, a former insurance broker and partner at Riley, Garrison & Associates, faces several years in prison and six-figure fines if he’s convicted of three counts of commercial bribery.
Robinson, the Pechanga tribe’s former chief financial officer, faces the same penalties if convicted of the same crimes.
The jury in July voted 8-4 for acquittal on charges of grand theft and money laundering. Those counts have since been dropped, leaving only the bribery charges. On those, the jury hung 10-2 for guilty.
“The facts just aren’t there regarding an intent to steal,” Chris Jensen, Robinson’s attorney, told City News Service at the time. “The prosecution seems bothered by the profits that (Mr. Riley) made, and they’re trying to equate profits to theft … The tribe might have been overcharged (on insurance premiums), but is that stealing?”
Roy alleged Riley and Robinson began their illicit activity shortly
after Hurricane Katrina struck in September 2005.
Commercial insurance rates skyrocketed following the disaster, enabling the defendants to justify exorbitant insurance costs from which they gained, according to the prosecutor.
She said Riley allegedly artificially inflated the tribe’s property and
risk insurance premiums to pocket large sums disguised as fees, with Robinson’s complicity.
The prosecution contended that Robinson received $190,000 under the table for his participation. Jensen characterized the payments as “loans” that his client needed to pay down divorce-related 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.
Both defendants are free on $25,000 bail.