Joe Nelson, Staff Writer
Posted: 05/04/2013 06:22:53 PM PDT

In 2010, San Bernardino County District Attorney Michael Ramos announced the formation of the Inland Empire Joint Corruption Task Force, prompted by allegations of rampant corruption in local government. His announcement followed an FBI raid at the county-run Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in Colton, where it was alleged that some public officials had been receiving free medical care.

While that investigation didn’t bear fruit, there was plenty more where that came from.

The following year, federal agents from the task force raided the Rancho Cucamonga offices of developer Jeff Burum and the homes of three former San Bernardino County officials in a corruption probe alleging a $102 million legal settlement between the county and Burum’s investor group, Colonies Partners LP, was tainted by bribery, blackmail and extortion.

Since then, the task force has also investigated alleged corruption at the San Bernardino International Airport and in Upland, which have netted criminal charges and convictions against several officials and businessmen.

“I have a tremendous amount of respect for all our partners in the Inland Empire Joint Corruption Task Force,” Ramos said in a statement Friday. “Together, through our combined efforts and resources, we are able to better address the issue of public corruption for our citizens. ”

Now, the task force has set its sights on Riverside County.

On Tuesday, federal agents served search warrants at the home of Moreno Valley Mayor Tom Owing and at the offices of Highland Fairview, a company that wants to build a 41-million-square-foot warehouse center, the World Logistics Center, on the city’s east side. The project has been met with opposition by neighboring residents who fear an influx of traffic and pollution.

Pooling resources

FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said the task force is composed of agents from the FBI and the IRS, investigators from the San Bernardino and Riverside District Attorney’s offices and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

While it is more common for task forces to investigate violent crimes, they are sometimes established to investigate public corruption, Eimiller said.

“It’s a little more rare to have public corruption task forces, but not completely rare; we have a new one in the Orange County area,” said Eimiller, adding that corruption cases are dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

Task forces allow for a pooling of resources for large-scale investigations that may otherwise not be available for autonomous law enforcement investigations, Eimiller said.

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