Thursday, April 4, 2013

San Bernardino International Airport corruption - The Saga Continues

S. E. Williams, Staff Writer, The ALPENHORN News -

On Friday, disgraced San Bernardino International Airport developer Scot Spencer appeared in San Bernardino County Superior Court and entered a plea of "not guilty.” Spencer’s arraignment followed the Monday, March 25 announcement of his arrest by San Bernardino County District Attorney Michael Ramos. At the same time, Ramos named Felice Luciano, Spencer’s business associate and investor, as a co-conspirator in the criminal allegations.

Spencer, an official resident of Florida, was charged with two counts of criminal conspiracy, one count of preparing false documents and two counts of perjury. According to reports, Spencer and Luciano allegedly drafted a fraudulent charter, jet lease agreement and presented it to the San Bernardino County Grand Jury in 2010. The lease agreement was presented as a partial response to the jury’s inquiry into alleged corruption activities at the airport.

In 2008, Spencer filed a claim against the San Bernardino International Airport Authority (SBIAA), which has oversight authority for the airport facility. In the claim, Spencer alleged that a hanger space at the airport already under lease to him was re-leased to another client in error by an airport official. At the time, Spencer claimed that the error had cost him and his partner, Luciano, a lease agreement they had negotiated with the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

According to Spencer, the DNC lease secured a chartered jet for a period of three months at a rate of a quarter of a million dollars per month. It is alleged that Luciano’s company, Unique Aviation, was supposed to provide the jet that would be housed at the airport and used by the DNC. For some inexplicable reason, when Spencer raised the lease concern with the SBIAA, rather than taking the issue to court, the agency quickly settled with Spencer for over one million dollars—SBIAA officials never saw or even questioned the lease agreement.

A subsequent investigation of the settlement began with the 2010 Grand Jury Final Report and subsequently involved the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the District Attorney—the combined effort ultimately exposed the alleged deceit. During its investigation, the District Attorney’s Office learned from the Democratic National Committee that the contract with Spencer and Luciano never existed. It was this discovery that led to the arrest and charges against them.

As Ramos announced the arrest of Spencer last Monday, Luciano remained at large and was considered a fugitive. However, he voluntarily surrendered to authorities late Thursday afternoon. Luciano’s residence is listed in Tempe, Arizona, although he reportedly owns a home in New Jersey, a business in New York City and may travel regularly between the two.

Subsequent to his surrender, Luciano was arraigned on two charges of conspiracy; entered a plea of "not guilty”; and was released on $500,000 bail. He is scheduled to appear for a pre-trial hearing on April 17.

In the meantime, Spencer is being held at the West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga in lieu of one million dollars’ bail. His next court appearance is scheduled for April 9.

During his tenure as developer for the San Bernardino International Airport, Spencer controlled millions of dollars in contracts. It is also alleged that he assigned a number of "no-bid” sub-contracts to companies that he actually owned.

The SBIAA initially awarded Spencer a $45 million dollar "no-bid” contract that grew to nearly $200 million by the time he was arrested last week. The Alpenhorn News will continue to follow this story.

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