4 investigations in less than year
Joe Nelson, Staff Writer
Posted: 09/24/2011 07:10:43 PM PDT

The federal raid at San Bernardino International Airport on Wednesday marked the fourth FBI investigation in San Bernardino County in the last year, leaving some public officials wondering when the next shoe will drop.

FBI agents are also investigating allegations of illegal activity involving the county’s $102 million legal settlement with Rancho Cucamonga developer Colonies Partners LP in 2006, billing practices at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center, and allegations of conspiracy, bribery and extortion in Upland involving its former mayor.

“It says that we have an inability to police ourselves and keep our house in order, and it’s embarrassing,” Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Josie Gonzales said Friday. “We’re adults. We know better.”

Construction and infrastructure improvement projects at the airport, funded with local and federal money, have ballooned to more than $200 million in the past six years, and the airport still hasn’t landed a major airline. Efforts to recruit a major airline have so far been unsuccessful.

It has left many sharply criticizing airport operations and the business relationships between airport developer and convicted felon Scot Spencer, airport administrators and elected officials.

Gonzales, who sits on the San Bernardino International Airport Authority (SBIAA) board, has long advocated for a change in administration at the airport, and said she was angered and frustrated when she learned of the federal
raid Wednesday.

“We’ve got to clean house, and I am going to clean house,” Gonzales said just prior to an emergency meeting Friday at Loma Linda City Hall to discuss the latest developments at the airport and what the next steps should be.

Supervisor Neil Derry has long opposed the conversion of the former Norton Air Force Base to an international airport, and said that the federal investigation is yet another dark chapter for San Bernardino County.

“I think it clearly indicates that the county of San Bernardino is incapable of cleaning up our own messes, and I welcome the involvement of federal agents who have no ax to grind and have no sacred cows,” Derry said. “The question is, when is there going to be another shoe that drops?”

Airport raid

More than 80 FBI agents served search warrants Wednesday at the airport and at the gated mansion Spencer rents in Riverside. They seized computers and mobile phones and loaded dozens of boxes stuffed with documents into a 26-foot U-Haul truck.

Agents are investigating allegations of criminal conspiracy, bribery, money laundering, theft and fraud involving programs receiving federal funds, mail and wire fraud, according to one of the search warrants.

Investigators are trying to show, through documented evidence, a relationship between Spencer and San Bernardino Mayor Pat Morris, airport director Donald L. Rogers, aviation director Bill Ingraham, assistant director Michael Burrows, former airport director Thomas “T. Milford” Harrison, and Tiger Enterprises & Trading, Inc., a South Carolina-based aircraft materials company, according to the warrant.

The warrant listed 16 corporations Spencer is affiliated with in which investigators were also seeking records, including SBD Aircraft Services LLC, Norton Property Management Services LLC and Norton Aircraft Maintenance Services, Inc.

Investigators are also examining campaign finance and conflict-of-interest forms, emails, text messages, notes, as well as applications and other documentation related to the receipt of federal funds by the airport and its governing agencies dating back to Jan. 1, 2003, according to the warrant.

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