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Lake County tribal bookkeeper accused of embezzlement dies

A Lake County tribal chairwoman charged with embezzling from a neighboring tribe has died.

Tracey Avila, 52, chairwoman of Robinson Rancheria, succumbed this week of complications from kidney failure, according to Lake County Deputy District Attorney Rachel Abelson, who was prosecuting the embezzlement case.

Robinson Rancheria tribal leaders could not be reached for comment. A woman who said she was a family member said the family did not want anything written about Avila.

Avila was charged in 2011 with grand theft, accused of stealing more than $60,000 from the Elem Band of Pomo Indians while working as their bookkeeper.

Robinson Rancheria and its casino are near Upper Lake, north of Clear Lake. Elem is near Clearlake Oaks on the southeastern shore of the lake.

Avila was charged with thefts between February 2006 and September 2008, Abelson said. Elem tribal officials discovered financial irregularities in 2009, after Avila left her job, she said. They wrote to federal agencies asking for an investigation because the tribe did not have the resources to conduct one themselves, Abelson said.

Federal officials turned over their findings to local prosecutors, she said.

Avila gave herself unauthorized pay raises, unauthorized benefits and took pay advances she did not refund, Abelson said.

Avila's court proceedings were delayed multiple times following her arrest. In August, her attorney, Justin Petersen, told prosecutors she was ill. In addition to kidney problems, Avila suffered from diabetes, Abelson said.

In November, Petersen reported that Avila needed to go into a rehabilitation facility to undergo dialysis for renal failure, Abelson said.

A stent inserted for dialysis led to a blood infection, she said. Avila also suffered a stroke, Abelson said.


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