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By Joe Nelson, The Sun
Posted: 04/26/15 – 8:07 PM PDT |

The FBI just can’t seem to stay out of the Inland Empire.

In the past five years, the federal law enforcement agency has investigated more than a half dozen government and public entities in San Bernardino and Riverside counties, including San Bernardino County, the cities of Upland, San Bernardino and Moreno Valley, San Bernardino International Airport and Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in Colton.

Despite its best efforts to clean up its image, deter public corruption and promote government transparency, the Inland Empire seems to be, as Bob Seger would say, running against the wind.

On Wednesday, the city of Beaumont, in Riverside County, joined the list of Inland Empire municipalities now under law enforcement radar. The FBI assisted the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office in serving four search warrants at Beaumont City Hall, the Palm Desert home of City Manager Alan Kapanicas, the offices of Beaumont-based civil-engineering firm Urban Logic Consultants Inc., and a Temecula residence.

The investigation, city officials said in a news release, centers on the city’s 22-year business relationship with Urban Logic Consultants, which the city entered into a contract with in March 1993, before the company incorporated and was still a general partnership.

Stephen Tibbetts, a criminal law professor at Cal State San Bernardino, said he didn’t think he would ever see as much public corruption as he saw while living in Washington, D.C., throughout the 1990s.

That was until he moved to the Inland Empire in 2000.

“In my experience, it seems the corruption here is on par with Washington, D.C.,” Tibbetts said.

He said the latest raids in Beaumont, compounded with the spate of corruption cases that have sprouted around the Inland Empire in recent years, illustrates a much bigger problem.

“I think it’s a bad sign,” said Tibbetts. “I think, as the saying goes, where there’s smoke, there’s fire.”

The FBI was initially involved in San Bernardino County’s Colonies corruption case, in which three former top county officials and a Rancho Cucamonga developer have been charged in an elaborate conspiracy and bribery case centering on the county’s controversial $102 million settlement with the Rancho Cucamonga investor group Colonies Partners LP in November 2006. The settlement ended in a nearly five-year legal battle between developer and defendant Jeff Burum and the county over who was responsible for flood-control improvements at a 434-acre residential and commercial development of Burum’s in Upland that was bankrolled by Colonies Partners, of which Burum was a co-managing partner.

The Colonies case remains pending at the state level, but the federal government announced in a court motion in January 2014 that the federal statute of limitations pertaining to the charges the government was investigating in the Colonies case had expired “without the filing of federal charges.”

Officials at the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office did not respond to repeated telephone calls and emails Friday seeking comment.

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