Published: 26 October 2011 07:00 PM

San Bernardino County tax collectors have seized $31,618 from the developer of San Bernardino International Airport and his related businesses, a fraction of the $544,876 he owes in property taxes, according to the county agency.

The developer, Scot Spencer, is the focus of an FBI-led investigation surrounding the airport.

Larry Walker, San Bernardino County’s auditor-controller/treasurer/tax collector, wouldn’t say how his tax collectors had found money seized so far, saying that divulging details might affect his staff’s advantage in finding more without Spencer’s cooperation.

“He’s certainly aware that he owes the money,” Walker said, adding that Spencer and his companies have received bills for some time.

He said speed and confidentiality going forward will be key to recouping the amount still owed by Spencer and his related companies doing business at the airport. Walker called the amount one of the highest his office has seen.

In an emailed reply to questions Wednesday, Spencer disputed that he hadn’t cooperated with tax collectors or that he owed what they say he owes.

“Our counsel has reviewed what appear to be material and significant errors in the County Tax Assessments and we have referred them to counsel to get the errors corrected,” he wrote. “As has always been the case we are committed to insuring that the correct property taxes are paid.”

In his sublease agreements with tenants, a provision passes the property tax obligations to the subtenant. Several of those subtenants have gone out of business, and only Spencer’s entities are named with the tax collector.

The debt has stacked up since at least 2005. Spencer was awarded two agreements to develop most of the airport at the former Norton Air Force Base in 2007. He earned a fee for every construction contract awarded. The cost to build a passenger terminal and luxury general aviation hub grew from $45million to $142.5 million in the last four years.

Walker said it hurts all taxpayers when others don’t pay their taxes.

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