Monday, October 10, 2011

(San Bernardino) AIRPORT: Spencer’s debt to agency grew to $780,707


Published: 08 October 2011 04:14 PM

Scot Spencer, the man entrusted with developing most of San Bernardino International Airport, still owed about $673,820 in back rent as of Wednesday to the public agency overseeing the airport, according to information from the airport’s finance department.

He had recently paid $106,887 he owed in filming and fuel fees for the year.

Spencer and his companies are at the center of an FBI-led investigation looking for evidence of conspiracy, bribery, fraud and money laundering, among other wrongdoing, according to copies of federal search warrants.

In 2007, the San Bernardino International Airport Authority awarded Spencer two lease agreements to develop a passenger terminal for commercial airlines and a fixed-base operation for private pilots. The passenger terminal is mostly finished and no commercial airline has agreed to provide scheduled service. The fixed-base operation, a Million Air franchise, opened last year.

Mike Burrows, the authority’s assistant director, did not return a call seeking comment. The airport’s longtime executive director, Donald L. Rogers, resigned on Sept. 28. Spencer did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

Besides rent, Spencer’s companies still owe $537,359 in county property taxes related to the airport. His SBD Aircraft Services company owed the state board of equalization $102,170.78 in taxes as of July, according to records from the county assessor office. The same company owed employment taxes worth $17,071.28 to the state as of August.

At least eight search warrants have been served on locations related to the federal investigation into the airport including Spencer’s offices, his home, a location in Boca Raton, Florida, as well as the offices of the airport authority and its parent agency the Inland Valley Development Agency.

When Norton Air Force Base closed in 1994 causing about 10,000 jobs to disappear from the region, the public agency aimed to replace those lost jobs by redeveloping the base with private enterprises and a commercial airport. Elected officials from San Bernardino County, the city of San Bernardino, Colton, Highland and Loma Linda sit on the boards of the two agencies.

Spencer has been paid more than $2 million in taxpayer funds in developer and construction fees since then, based on a percentage of each construction contract. In four years, the cost to construct both, plus a three-story U.S. Customs facility, grew from $45 million to more than $142.5 million as the scope of the project grew. He has also been reimbursed more than $4 million for equipment he’s purchased and services he provided the airport.

In the mid-1990s, Spencer was sentenced to 51 months in federal prison for bankruptcy fraud related to the third and final collapse of Braniff Airlines. The Department of Transportation later banned him from the aviation industry for operating an unlicensed charter airline out of San Bernardino airport. Airport staff, primarily Rogers, had defended awarding two no-bid contracts to Spencer because the transportation ban didn’t apply to airport operations, just airline operations.

In addition to developing the airport, Spencer is the landlord of one of the largest hangars at the base and operates the Million Air franchise which earns revenue from selling fuel to pilots that land at the airport. Another of his companies has a contract with the public agency to manage the airport.

Spencer has racked up hefty debts at the airport, before.

Days after The Press-Enterprise noted in late June that Spencer owed three months worth of rent, he delivered checks worth $329,060.09 for the space he rents for his Million Air franchise, the land where his fueling station sits and most of Hangar 763 at the airport.

As part of his lease agreements with the airport authority, Spencer leases the airport’s main passenger terminal at no cost until construction is entirely finished and the building is transferred back to the airport authority’s ownership.

Until that time though, if a Hollywood location scout thinks the airport is the ideal backdrop for a car commercial, for example, the revenue goes to Spencer except for a 20 percent cut for the authority. This year, his company earned $81,000 in filming fees after seven production studios rented the airport space for shoots. He owed the airport authority its cut of $16,200 but didn’t pay until Sept. 6., after The Press-Enterprise requested information on how much Spencer had paid the public agency in filming and fueling fees.

Actor Kiefer Sutherland was there in late June filming a pilot called “Touch” for 20th Century Fox.

Sutherland took to Twitter to tell followers: “Filming out at San Bernardino International Airport … I didn’t even know San Bernardino HAD an airport.”

There’s no record of Spencer paying any filming fees in 2010 despite there being 11 productions – all commercials or still photography for companies such as Lexus , Kia, Mitsubishi and Hot Wheels – that were held at the airport for a total of 31 days, according to the Inland Empire Film Commission.

On Sept. 6, Spencer also paid the airport $90,687, the amount of fees he owed in full for fuel he sold between January and June.


Scot Spencer, the developer of San Bernardino International Airport, has several agreements with the airport authority. As of Wednesday, he owed a total of $673,820 in rent.

Million Air building: about $278,016

Missed payments: Feb., March, July, Aug., Sept. and Oct. (based on monthly payments of $46,345.12)

Hangar 763: $262,746

Missed payments: March, July, August, September and October

A bay inside Hangar 763 that was sublet to Boeing: $74,828

Missed payments: April thru October

Fuel farm formerly known as Don Blue’s Aviation: $58,230

Missed payments: about five months

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