The Colonies figure says agents crippled his firms and took attorney documents. Feds say no privileged papers were
BY IMRAN GHORI
STAFF WRITER
ighori@pe.com

Published: 07 October 2011 10:19 PM

An attorney for Rancho Cucamonga developer Jeff Burum urged federal officials to return material seized during a raid last month and accused them of taking documents that are protected by attorney-client privilege.

Stephen Larson, Burum’s attorney, filed motions with the U.S. District Court in Riverside. They were made available this week.

The confiscation of computers from the Rancho Cucamonga office of Burum’s firm, Diversified Pacific, has “paralyzed and devastated the day-to-day operations of more than two dozen business entities,” he said in court documents. Most of the businesses are spin-off companies for different Burum projects.

Larson said he maintains a “war room” at Burum’s office and alleged that federal agents violated Burum’s civil rights by searching the attorney’s office there and removing documents that are privileged.

In court documents, officials with the U.S. Attorney’s office said they took precautions to ensure that no privileged material was taken.

Federal Bureau of Investigation and Internal Revenue Service agents served search warrants on nine locations with ties to the Colonies Partners corruption probe on Sept. 15 including Burum’s home, office and a nonprofit company he founded.

Investigators also searched the homes of former San Bernardino County Supervisor Paul Biane, former assistant assessor Jim Erwin, and Mark Kirk, former chief of staff to Supervisor Gary Ovitt. They also searched the Riverside office of public relations consultant Patrick O’Reilly and the Fontana home and business of former state Sen. Jim Brulte.

Officials have declined to comment on the investigation, but search warrants included as part of Larson’s motion show that federal agents sought information related to San Bernardino County’s $102 million settlement with Burum’s company, Colonies Partners.

The November 2006 agreement, reached following a four-year legal battle over the firm’s Upland housing and commercial development, is the subject of a state and local corruption investigation in which Burum, Erwin, Kirk and Biane are facing conspiracy and bribery-related charges. All four have pleaded not guilty. The state attorney general and county district attorney’s office have declined to comment on the federal investigation.

According to the warrants for Burum’s office and home, federal official sought all records and documents related to the Colonies litigation and involving Biane, Erwin, Kirk, Brulte and O’Reilly. Brulte and O’Reilly, who served as consultants for Burum during the legal battle, have not been charged with any crimes.

Investigators also sought records involving former supervisor and assessor Bill Postmus and former assessor’s employee Rex Gutierrez.

Postmus pleaded guilty in February to 15 felonies, including accepting a bribe. He is cooperating with local officials. Gutierrez, a former Rancho Cucamonga councilman, was convicted last year on charges of conspiracy, grand theft and filing a false document and is serving a two-year, eight-month sentence in state prison. In his trial, prosecutors said Postmus gave Gutierrez a job at the assessor’s office with few duties at Burum’s request.

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