Developer Burum’s attorney says FBI searches unconstitutional

Joe Nelson, The (San Bernardino County) Sun
Posted: 10/04/2011 01:59:35 PM PDT

Federal search warrants served at the home and business of Rancho Cucamonga developer Jeff Burum were unconstitutionally overbroad and vague, according to a motion filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Riverside.

Burum’s attorney, Stephen G. Larson, is demanding that all of Burum’s property seized during the Sept. 15 FBI and IRS raid immediately be returned to him.

The warrants were served at nine locations in San Bernardino and Riverside counties in connection with a sweeping corruption scandal involving allegations of bribery, extortion and fraud, according to the federal search warrant.

The allegations stem from a $102 million legal settlement between the county and Burum’s development consortium, Colonies Partners LP, in November 2006.

Larson argues in his motion that federal agents were essentially on a fishing expedition when they seized financial records, computers, a mobile phone and family trust documents, among other evidence, during the searches, thus violating Burum’s civil rights.

“The warrants improperly authorized the wholesale and indiscriminate seizure of evidence without any attempt to limit the scope of what was seized or particularize the warrants to the locations searched or suspected criminal activity,” according to the motion.

In short, Larson argued that the warrants authorized the federal government to “seize the haystack to look for the needle.”

“Mr. Burum has been prejudiced and irreparably harmed by the government’s unconstitutional warrants and seizures,” Larson said in his motion.

FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

Burum and three former county officials are already facing a criminal trial in San Bernardino Superior Court for allegedly conspiring to steer the landmark legal settlement between the county and Colonies Partners LP in the developer’s favor. The settlement ended nearly five years of heated legal battle over who was responsible for paying for a nearly 70-acre flood control basin at the developer’s Colonies at San Antonio residential and Colonies Crossroads retail development adjacent the 210 Freeway in Upland.

Also charged in the state’s case are former county Supervisor Paul Biane, former assistant assessor Jim Erwin and Mark Kirk, former chief of staff for Supervisor Gary Ovitt. All four deny any wrongdoing.

During the Sept. 15 searches federal agents also served warrants at the homes of Biane, Erwin and Kirk and the Riverside office of Patrick O’Reilly, a publicist who has been identified as an alleged co-conspirator in the state’s case but not charged with any crime.

In March, former Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Postmus pleaded guilty to more than two dozen criminal charges in the Colonies corruption scandal and a separate scandal at the Assessor’s Office in which he was accused of running a political operation out of the office at taxpayer expense.

Postmus is alleged to have conspired with Burum to settle the lawsuit in exchange for bribes and political favors. He and Biane, along with Ovitt, approved the settlement on Nov. 28, 2006. The settlement was not ratified by County Counsel or outside counsel commissioned by the county.

As part of a plea bargain with state and local prosecutors, Postmus has agreed to turn state’s evidence and testify against the defendants in exchange for reduced charges of conspiracy, conflict of interest and misappropriation of public funds.

joe.nelson@inlandnewspapers.com

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