Thursday, March 28, 2013

San Bernardino airport officials say Scot Spencer's attorney vetted jet lease agreement

San Bernardino International Airport officials on Wednesday said they will seek to recover more than $1 million they paid to former airport developer Scot Spencer to settle a legal dispute over a lease agreement prosecutors now say was a sham.

The District Attorney's Office announced this week it had charged Spencer, 48, and a business affiliate, Felice Luciano, 69, with criminal conspiracy and perjury relating to a charter jet lease agreement with the Democratic National Committee in 2008 that became the target of an FBI probe.

Prosecutors say the lease agreement was fraudulent and was used by Spencer and Luciano to try and bilk the San Bernardino International Airport Authority out of $1.75 million. The Airport Authority settled the matter with Spencer for $1.02 million to avoid an expensive and lengthy court battle.

On Wednesday, San Bernardino Mayor Pat Morris, who is chairman of the Airport Authority board, said airport officials in 2008 had every reason to believe the lease agreement was valid, even though no one at the airport actually saw it.

Legal counsel for the Democratic National Committee subsequently told district attorney's investigator Schyler Beaty it never had any such agreement with Spencer or his companies, SBD Aircraft Services and Norton Aircraft  Maintenance Services.

Spencer filed a claim with the Airport Authority in 2008, saying he lost out on a lease agreement with the Democratic National Committee to charter a jet after an airport official mistakenly leased the hangar Spencer's companies were to occupy to a blimp manufacturer.

Authorities say Spencer exploited that mistake for financial gain, fabricating the lease agreement in order to squeeze money from the Airport Authority.

When the airport's attorney, Tim Sabo, requested a copy of Spencer's contract with the Democratic National Committee for verification, he instead received a letter from Spencer's attorney saying a confidentiality clause in the agreement precluded the release of it to airport officials. The attorney worked for the firm Morrison Foerster, which has offices across the U.S., in Asia and Europe, said Morris.

In his letter, Spencer's attorney, who airport officials would not name, said he reviewed the lease agreement and that it was in fact valid.

"He gave almost two pages laying out what the terms of the agreement were," said A.J. Wilson, interim executive director of the airport, adding that the board concluded the attorney's letter provided the information it needed to consider settling with Spencer, which it ultimately did.


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