10:54 PM PDT on Thursday, September 22, 2011
BY KIMBERLY PIERCEALL
FBI and other investigators raided San Bernardino International Airport offices seeking evidence of bribery, theft, fraud, money laundering and more, according to a copy of a federal search warrant obtained Thursday from the lawyer for the two agencies that oversee development of the airport.
The investigation is the latest event to cast a cloud over the airport since a highly critical San Bernardino County civil grand jury report was released June 30. The report faulted the airport’s involvement with Scot Spencer, a convicted felon who was banned from the aviation industry in 2005 after operating an unlicensed charter airline at the airport. The FBI has declined to provide the reason for Wednesday’s raid. The affidavits given to the court to authorize the searches are sealed.
A total of seven search warrants were issued for Wednesday morning’s raid as FBI agents, county and state law enforcement agencies fanned out to collect truckloads of evidence from airport offices and a residence rented by Spencer, the airport’s developer.
Agents seized numerous boxes of materials from the administrative offices of the Inland Valley Development Agency and San Bernardino International Airport Authority. Both agencies have been overseeing development at the former Norton Air Force Base in an attempt to replace more than 10,000 jobs that were lost by the time the base closed in 1994.
Calls to Spencer’s cellphone and the home of San Bernardino Mayor Patrick Morris, who leads the IVDA and SBIAA, were not returned.
Karen Feld, an attorney representing the agencies, said the staff has been directed to make no comment. She said she expected the board to respond to the investigation at a special meeting at 4:30 p.m. today at Loma Linda City Hall’s council chambers. As for why the FBI was searching for evidence related to conspiracy, bribery and other illegal activity, Feld said there was no way of knowing.
The civil grand jury report that was a result of a two-year investigation questioned Spencer’s business relationship with the airport authority’s executive director Donald L. Rogers as well as a legal settlement between the airport and Spencer worth $1 million. The report was also critical of the price the airport authority paid Spencer for used jet bridges and seats for a passenger terminal, as well as the cost to renovate that terminal, which has grown from $35 million to more than $101.5 million in local and federal taxpayer funds.
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