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Luiseno Indians robbed by one of their own

$83K of checks written by accounts payable clerk to herself

La Jolla tribal logo from website.
La Jolla tribal logo from website.

Destiny Adelaide Nelson, 38, admitted stealing from her tribe, the La Jolla Band of Luiseno Indians, and agreed to pay back the $83,226 she took. The stolen money “fed” her addictions, drugs and gambling, she later told investigators.

Nelson admitted forging the signatures of Mark Lofton and Cody Schlater.

In her plea deal she admitted embezzling the money from her employer, the tribe. And that she forged other people’s signatures on more than 190 checks she made out to herself. Nelson admitted two felonies on June 7, 2018.

Map of old Luiseno territory

Nelson was born in 1979 in Palm Springs. She said she first consumed alcohol when she was 12 years old. When she was arrested in April 2018 she said that she rarely drinks now; she said it had been a whole month since her last drink.

Nelson first used meth when she was 14 years old, and she used meth on a daily basis; she admitted this, and using meth the same day that she was arrested.

She did not finish high school, she said she did complete the 11th grade.

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When she was 16 or 17, Nelson gave birth to a daughter.

When she was 22 years old, in 2001, she participated in a drug treatment program in Indio.

When she was 27 years old, in 2006, Nelson was first given a job by her tribe, the La Jolla Band of Luiseno Indians.

Nelson said she first used pills when she was 30 years old. Those meds included Soma, Oxy, Percocet, Norco and Adavant. She used those pills on a daily basis.

When she was 31 years old, in 2010, her employer promoted her to file clerk.

In 2013 Nelson participated in a detox program in Hemet.

In February 2015, Nelson was promoted to accounts payable clerk for the tribe. She was 35 years old then. That same year she participated in two inpatient drug programs at a Temecula facility.

It was in September 2015, seven months after she was promoted to accounts payable, that the checks most obviously forged by Nelson appeared.

Nelson later admitted forging the signatures of Mark Lofton and Cody Schlater who are board members for the tribe. When she was asked about Fred Nelson, another board member who has the same last name, “she said he was her cousin and she probably forged his signature.” Fred Nelson is variously described as “vice chairman” and “treasurer” in tribal reports found online.

Investigators found at least 190 checks Destiny wrote to herself, these siphoned money from the tribe’s “general fund.” Her embezzlement continued until the day she was fired, in May 2017. A statement in her court file said she was jettisoned “for reasons not related to her job in accounts payable.” No other reason was given.

After she was fired, Nelson lived for five months with her adult daughter in Louisiana, that was July 2017 through November 2017. At that time, Nelson was 38 years old and her daughter was 20.

The same month that Nelson was fired, in May 2017, the tribe hired an accountant to do an audit. Four months later, on September 27 2017, the tribe contacted the San Diego County Sheriff to report their fears of criminal embezzlement.

Seven months after they were contacted, sheriff’s investigators arrested Nelson at her home, on Poomacha Road in Pauma Valley, on April 19, 2018. The sheriff issued a statement the day of the arrest. On the sheriff’s website, Destiny Adelaide Nelson was described as 38 years old, female, 5 feet 7 inches tall and 200 pounds.

When officers interviewed her, they showed her a fraudulent check and she did admit that she created it and “it was hard to look at” and that she was “wrong.”

From a probation report generated later: “She said that not all of the checks were signed, she fucked up, and that looking at the checks was embarrassing. When asked why she did it, she said she had addictions, she wasn’t a bad person but had gambling and drug addictions.”

The same day she was arrested, she sent a text message from her phone at 5:06 p.m. “Listen don’t panic I had a warrant for arrest they’re taking me to vista I’ll call you when I see what’s going on. I love you don’t worry. And please tell no one.” Nelson sent another text at 5:17 p.m. “Im thinking it’s a good thing Ive been trying to figure out how Im going to stop doing the things I do and get right I think it’s for the better.”

On July 9, 2018 she was sentenced to time served. She could have gotten three years eight months prison for the crimes she admitted. Before she was released, Nelson was required to hand over her first check in the amount of $2,500, to begin reimbursement to her tribe. She will be on formal probation three years.

Nelson owes a total of $97,153, according to paperwork in her court file. That amount includes fines and restitution and a county collection fee. The paperwork directs that her payments are to first be applied to “victim restitution.” The victim is named as the La Jolla Band of Luiseno Indians.

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La Jolla tribal logo from website.
La Jolla tribal logo from website.

Destiny Adelaide Nelson, 38, admitted stealing from her tribe, the La Jolla Band of Luiseno Indians, and agreed to pay back the $83,226 she took. The stolen money “fed” her addictions, drugs and gambling, she later told investigators.

Nelson admitted forging the signatures of Mark Lofton and Cody Schlater.

In her plea deal she admitted embezzling the money from her employer, the tribe. And that she forged other people’s signatures on more than 190 checks she made out to herself. Nelson admitted two felonies on June 7, 2018.

Map of old Luiseno territory

Nelson was born in 1979 in Palm Springs. She said she first consumed alcohol when she was 12 years old. When she was arrested in April 2018 she said that she rarely drinks now; she said it had been a whole month since her last drink.

Nelson first used meth when she was 14 years old, and she used meth on a daily basis; she admitted this, and using meth the same day that she was arrested.

She did not finish high school, she said she did complete the 11th grade.

Sponsored
Sponsored

When she was 16 or 17, Nelson gave birth to a daughter.

When she was 22 years old, in 2001, she participated in a drug treatment program in Indio.

When she was 27 years old, in 2006, Nelson was first given a job by her tribe, the La Jolla Band of Luiseno Indians.

Nelson said she first used pills when she was 30 years old. Those meds included Soma, Oxy, Percocet, Norco and Adavant. She used those pills on a daily basis.

When she was 31 years old, in 2010, her employer promoted her to file clerk.

In 2013 Nelson participated in a detox program in Hemet.

In February 2015, Nelson was promoted to accounts payable clerk for the tribe. She was 35 years old then. That same year she participated in two inpatient drug programs at a Temecula facility.

It was in September 2015, seven months after she was promoted to accounts payable, that the checks most obviously forged by Nelson appeared.

Nelson later admitted forging the signatures of Mark Lofton and Cody Schlater who are board members for the tribe. When she was asked about Fred Nelson, another board member who has the same last name, “she said he was her cousin and she probably forged his signature.” Fred Nelson is variously described as “vice chairman” and “treasurer” in tribal reports found online.

Investigators found at least 190 checks Destiny wrote to herself, these siphoned money from the tribe’s “general fund.” Her embezzlement continued until the day she was fired, in May 2017. A statement in her court file said she was jettisoned “for reasons not related to her job in accounts payable.” No other reason was given.

After she was fired, Nelson lived for five months with her adult daughter in Louisiana, that was July 2017 through November 2017. At that time, Nelson was 38 years old and her daughter was 20.

The same month that Nelson was fired, in May 2017, the tribe hired an accountant to do an audit. Four months later, on September 27 2017, the tribe contacted the San Diego County Sheriff to report their fears of criminal embezzlement.

Seven months after they were contacted, sheriff’s investigators arrested Nelson at her home, on Poomacha Road in Pauma Valley, on April 19, 2018. The sheriff issued a statement the day of the arrest. On the sheriff’s website, Destiny Adelaide Nelson was described as 38 years old, female, 5 feet 7 inches tall and 200 pounds.

When officers interviewed her, they showed her a fraudulent check and she did admit that she created it and “it was hard to look at” and that she was “wrong.”

From a probation report generated later: “She said that not all of the checks were signed, she fucked up, and that looking at the checks was embarrassing. When asked why she did it, she said she had addictions, she wasn’t a bad person but had gambling and drug addictions.”

The same day she was arrested, she sent a text message from her phone at 5:06 p.m. “Listen don’t panic I had a warrant for arrest they’re taking me to vista I’ll call you when I see what’s going on. I love you don’t worry. And please tell no one.” Nelson sent another text at 5:17 p.m. “Im thinking it’s a good thing Ive been trying to figure out how Im going to stop doing the things I do and get right I think it’s for the better.”

On July 9, 2018 she was sentenced to time served. She could have gotten three years eight months prison for the crimes she admitted. Before she was released, Nelson was required to hand over her first check in the amount of $2,500, to begin reimbursement to her tribe. She will be on formal probation three years.

Nelson owes a total of $97,153, according to paperwork in her court file. That amount includes fines and restitution and a county collection fee. The paperwork directs that her payments are to first be applied to “victim restitution.” The victim is named as the La Jolla Band of Luiseno Indians.

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Comments
5

Photo of Destiny Nelson from the arrest warrant paperwork in her court file.

July 24, 2018
  1. So why wasn't the tribe doing auditing of their finance department before 2017?
  2. Since she was a known drug addict, why was she hired in the first place?
  3. Who was her supervisor or manager, and why weren't they paying more attention?
July 24, 2018

not enough money to bother counting with all the cash coming in ?

July 25, 2018

This is another case of an embezzler getting away with the theft because nobody was paying attention. Whoever was her boss should have been reviewing the disbursements at least weekly. It would/could have been "nipped in the bud" at the start, long before she had been able to steal such a large sum.

As to the hiring practices of the band/tribe, they are sovereign and don't have to conform to any sort of standard other than their own.

July 25, 2018

Nor, it seems, do that have to adhere to any reasonable business practices. You just can't fix stupid even with money.

July 25, 2018

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