Fire department worker charged with embezzlement
A Schurz man was indicted on charges of embezzling from the Walker River Volunteer Fire Department while he was the treasurer and assistant fire chief.
Elvin Willie Jr., a Walker River Paiute tribal member, was indicted in May on one felony count of embezzlement from the tribal organization. He is accused of stealing more than $1,000 between November 2002 and May 2003.
Willie, 50, pleaded not guilty to the charge. In a telephone interview he referred all questions to his lawyer.
“I don’t think my lawyer would want me saying anything,” he said, “so no comment.”
Reno Defense Attorney John Oakes was not in his office and could not be reached immediately for comment.
Natalie Collins, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Nevada, wouldn’t comment on the exact loss amount of money involved.
Walker River Fire Chief Tad Williams first noticed money missing from the fire department’s bank account. He alleges about $10,000, slated for equipment purchases and volunteer training, was missing. The volunteer fire department requested a federal investigation.
“Many people are shocked, but (fire department) morale overall is good,” Williams said. “This has brought us together, realizing we have to work together.”
Williams said he believes they did the right thing in bringing the case to the attention of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the FBI.
“If anyone is found guilty of taking our money we hope they pay us back in a timely manner,” he said.
Victoria Guzman, Walker River Paiute tribal chairwoman, said the council supported the federal investigation, despite criticism that the council was ignoring the issue.
“When there is wrongdoing in any tribal organization, any crime needs to get investigated,” she said. “These things have to be investigated.”
Willie’s first hearing is set for Aug. 26 and his trial is scheduled for Aug. 31 at 8:30 a.m. in the U.S. District Court of Nevada in Reno.
Becky Bosshart can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org