Judge says FBI searches in Colonies case appear just

Joe Nelson and Mike Cruz, The (San Bernardino County) Sun
Posted: 11/10/2011 05:01:31 PM PST

RIVERSIDE — A federal judge seemed poised to rule that federal agents did not violate the civil rights of Rancho Cucamonga developer Jeff Burum when they served search warrants at his home and office in September.

During a two-hour hearing Thursday in U.S. District Court, Judge S. James Otero heard arguments from Burum’s attorney, Stephen G. Larson, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jerry A. Behnke over whether federal prosecutors should be able to retain documents and other information seized during the Sept. 15 raid.

There is no deadline or estimated amount of time for Otero to deliver a decision, lawyers said. All they can do is wait for an email alert from the court that a ruling is available.

In the meantime, federal prosecutors are proceeding with their investigation of Burum and other three others in connection with the 2006 lawsuit settlement between San Bernardino County and Colonies Partners.

Former Assistant Assessor Jim Erwin and Mark Kirk, the former chief of staff for county Supervisor Gary Ovitt, also are challenging FBI searches of their property, court records indicate.

Larson alleges the warrants that FBI and IRS agents served at Burum’s home and office were overly broad and vague, and that agents were essentially on a fishing expedition. He also alleges agents acted in callous disregard for Burum’s civil rights, lying in a search warrant affidavit that Larson had condoned a search of his office and had escorted agents during the office walk-through.

Despite a declaration by FBI Agent Jonathan Zeitlin that agents did not search Larson’s office without Larson present, Larson said in a court motion that a surveillance video showed agents entering his office, and one agent went through his desk drawers.

Otero saw things differently.

“This appears to be simple human error,” Otero said during Thursday’s hearing. “A mistake does not become a significant error unless it’s not corrected.”

He based his opinion on declarations made by Zeitlin and FBI Special Agent Anthony Montero, in which Montero admitted that Zeitlin had given him the affidavit for vetting and that Montero signed off on it, overlooking the information indicating that Larson condoned the walk-through of his office and was present during it.

Behnke said the government takes such matters seriously.

“And the government apologizes for the mistake that was made,” Behnke said. He said nothing was seized from Larson’s office and law library, which are housed in the Diversified Pacific building on Civic Center Drive in Rancho Cucamonga. Burum founded Diversified Pacific in the 1990s, and roughly four dozen other businesses that Burum has a vested interest in are housed in the same building.

Larson disputed Otero’s argument that federal officials had appropriately corrected their error.

“Only once they received the video surveillance did they say, `Oh, it was a mistake,”‘ Larson said.

At the heart of Thursday’s hearing was whether the court should consider blocking federal prosecutors’ access to the documents and electronic data seized from Burum’s home and office based on Larson’s allegations.

FBI and IRS agents served nine warrants during the daylong raid in connection with San Bernardino County’s $102 million legal settlement with Rancho Cucamonga- based investor group Colonies Partners LP, of which Burum is a co-managing partner, in November 2006.

The settlement ended a nearly five-year 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 development in Upland.

The San Bernardino County District Attorney’s and state Attorney General’s offices already have charged Burum and three former county officials with conspiracy and conflict of interest in connection with the settlement. Prosecutors allege the settlement was the result of bribery and blackmail.

Larson said the federal investigation into the Colonies’ settlement is unique due to the state’s pending criminal case in San Bernardino Superior Court.

Otero, however, said there was no evidence to show that information from the federal searches will be shared with state and local prosecutors.

Also charged in the state 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 defendants deny any wrongdoing.

In a rare move, prosecutors last week agreed to return to Burum and Larson the materials seized during the raids, but have retained copies for their investigation. Larson, however, is trying to have the searches quashed by having them declared illegal.

Otero did not issue his ruling Thursday. That will be made in writing and announced at a later date.

Larson said he expects to receive Otero’s decision via e-mail.

Behnke declined to comment following the hearing.

Facebook Twitter Plusone Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

30 thoughts on “Judge says FBI searches in Colonies case appear just

  1. It is the best time to make some plans for the future and it is time to be happy. I’ve read this put up and if I may I want to suggest you some fascinating issues or tips. Maybe you could write next articles referring to this article. I wish to learn even more things approximately it!

  2. Thanks a bunch for sharing this with all folks you actually understand what you’re talking about! Bookmarked. Please additionally talk over with my web site =). We can have a hyperlink change arrangement between us

  3. Hi there, You’ve done an incredible job. I will certainly digg it and personally suggest to my friends. I am confident they will be benefited from this web site.

  4. excellent points altogether, you simply gained a new reader.

    What could you recommend in regards to your post that
    you simply made some days ago? Any positive?

  5. I’m no longer sure where you are getting your info, but great topic. I must spend some time finding out much more or working out more. Thanks for magnificent info I was in search of this information for my mission.

  6. I will immediately snatch your rss feed as I can’t to find your email subscription hyperlink or e-newsletter service. Do you’ve any? Please permit me understand so that I may just subscribe. Thanks.

  7. I’m really impressed with your writing abilities as smartly as with the format to your weblog. Is this a paid theme or did you customize it yourself? Either way keep up the nice quality writing, it is rare to look a nice blog like this one these days..

  8. Simply want to say your article is as surprising. The clearness to your put up is simply nice and i could assume you’re knowledgeable in this subject. Fine with your permission let me to snatch your feed to stay up to date with approaching post. Thanks one million and please carry on the gratifying work.

  9. I’m no longer certain where you’re getting your info, however good topic. I needs to spend some time studying more or working out more. Thank you for excellent information I was looking for this info for my mission.

  10. I am really inspired together with your writing abilities as neatly as with the layout to your weblog. Is that this a paid subject matter or did you modify it your self? Either way keep up the nice high quality writing, it’s rare to look a great weblog like this one today..

  11. Tremendous things here. I am very glad to peer your post. Thanks a lot and I am having a look ahead to contact you. Will you please drop me a mail?

  12. Thank you, I have recently been searching for information about this subject for a long time and yours is the greatest I have found out till now. But, what about the bottom line? Are you certain in regards to the source?|What i don’t understood is in fact how you are not really a lot more well-preferred than you may be now. You’re very intelligent.

  13. obviously like your website however you have to test the spelling on quite a few of your posts. Several of them are rife with spelling problems and I in finding it very troublesome to tell the truth then again I will certainly come again again.

  14. The very next time I read a blog, I hope that it doesn’t fail me as much as this particular one. I mean, I know it was my choice to read through, nonetheless I truly thought you would have something interesting to say. All I hear is a bunch of moaning about something you could possibly fix if you weren’t too busy seeking attention. payday loans

  15. Woah this blog is fantastic i like reading your posts. Stay up the great work! You realize, a lot of individuals are searching around for this information, you can help them greatly.

  16. I do believe all the ideas you have introduced for your post. They are very convincing and can certainly work. Still, the posts are too brief for novices. Could you please prolong them a bit from next time? Thanks for the post.

  17. I will right away seize your rss feed as I can not to find your e-mail subscription hyperlink or e-newsletter service. Do you have any? Please permit me realize so that I could subscribe. Thanks.

  18. You have made some good points there. I checked on the net to find out more about the issue and found most individuals will go along with your views on this website.
    payday loans

  19. I must thank you for the efforts you have put in penning this blog.
    I really hope to see the same high-grade content from you later on as
    well. In truth, your creative writing abilities has inspired me to
    get my very own website now 😉 paydayloanszap

  20. Your style is very unique compared to other people I’ve read stuff from. Thanks for posting when you have the opportunity, Guess I’ll just bookmark this blog.
    ppi claims

  21. Spot on with this write-up, I really believe this site
    needs a great deal more attention. Ill probably be returning to read
    through more, thanks for the information! cbs tv online

  22. Excellent post. I used to be checking constantly this weblog and I am impressed! Very useful info specifically the remaining section :) I maintain such info much. I was looking for this particular info for a very lengthy time. Thank you and good luck.

  23. Me gusta tu pagina web, lo he descubierto buscando por google y la verdad es que me encanta, lo voy a poner en favoritos y ahora mismo lo mando a twenti!!.he puesto en mi pagina web un link a tu web. Mi blog tiene un PR de 5.saludetes!

  24. I just like the helpful information you provide on your articles. I’ll bookmark your blog and test again here regularly. I’m fairly sure I will learn many new stuff right here! Good luck for the next!

Comments are closed.