Postmus’ attorney concerned FBI investigation may target ex-county supervisor

Joe Nelson, Staff Writer
Posted: 09/29/2011 09:38:47 PM PDT

The attorney for Bill Postmus is concerned that his client, who is cooperating with state and local prosecutors in their investigation of San Bernardino County’s $102 million legal settlement with a Rancho Cucamonga developer, could be in legal jeopardy from a federal investigation into the deal.

The former county supervisor’s name appears in a federal search warrant served Sept. 15 by roughly 100 FBI and IRS agents in San Bernardino and Riverside counties.

The FBI and IRS are investigating allegations of bribery, extortion and fraud in connection with the record settlement with Rancho Cucamonga developer Colonies Partners LP, according to the warrant.

Stephen Levine, Postmus’ attorney, said he contacted prosecutor Lewis Cope, who heads the District Attorney’s Public Integrity Unit, last week to discuss the federal investigation and whether state and local prosecutors have some kind of agreement with the FBI in which Postmus would be immune from federal prosecution. The two have yet to discuss the matter.

“If there is an agreement between the three agencies, they haven’t informed me as of yet,” Levine said. “We don’t know the length and breadth of the federal investigation, and obviously I’m concerned it’s going to continue to add to Mr. Postmus’s legal troubles.”

He said the federal investigation puts him and Postmus in an awkward position.

“At this point in time, we’re still in a cooperative mode with Mr. Cope and the A.G. (attorney general),” Levine said. “We intend to honor our contract, but of course we have concerns that if the federal investigation comes to fruition, is Mr. Postmus a person of interest?”

District attorney’s spokesman Chris Lee declined to comment.

FBI and IRS agent served warrants at the homes and businesses of former state Sen. Jim Brulte, Rancho Cucamonga developer Jeff Burum, former assistant assessor Jim Erwin, Riverside publicist Patrick O’Reilly, and Mark Kirk, the former chief of staff for Supervisor Gary Ovitt.

Federal agents sought various documents and electronic media to show financial transactions for evidence of payment of money or other things of value to public officials in exchange for performance of official acts. They also sought evidence of bribery, extortion or fraud, including “cash in an amount or concealed in such a manner as to indicate it is proceeds of criminal activity,” according to the search warrant.

Among the documents sought by agents include tax returns, profit and loss statements, pay stubs, bank statements, ledgers, construction contracts, consulting contracts, and loan and mortgage documents, according to the warrant.

In addition, agents sought evidence of the possible employment of private investigators or private investigation firms and whether public officials received campaign contributions or gifts in exchange for performance of official acts.

Evidence being sought by investigators dates back to Jan. 1, 2003, the statutory cutoff date for such evidence to be admissable in court.

Also named in the federal warrant is former Rancho Cucamonga Councilman Rex Gutierrez.

Gutierrez was convicted in October 2010 of stealing $147,000 in taxpayer money in the form of fraudulent pay and expenses while working at a county office as an intergovernmental-relations officer in the Assessor’s Office from March 19, 2007, to Jan. 3, 2009.

The jury determined Burum negotiated the job for Gutierrez through his connections with Postmus and Erwin. Gutierrez received four raises during his two years of employment but spent the majority of his time out of office attending Rancho Cucamonga functions and double billing the city and the county for mileage and expenses.

He was sentenced to two years, eight months in prison.

Gutierrez’s attorney, Jim Reiss, couldn’t be reached for comment about the federal investigation.

In his plea bargain with prosecutors, Postmus agreed to turn state’s evidence in exchange for reduced charges. Postmus plead guilty to conspiracy, bribery and conflict of interest.

The San Bernardino County District Attorney’s and state Attorney General’s offices are prosecuting Burum, Erwin, Kirk and Biane in a conspiracy and bribery case involving the county’s November 2006 settlement with Colonies Partners, where Burum is a co-managing partners. The landmark settlement ended nearly five years of legal battle over who was responsible for paying for flood-control improvements at the developer’s 434-acre Colonies at San Antonio residential and Colonies Crossroads commercial developments in Upland.

All four defendants deny any wrongdoing.

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