Grand jury looks into Sen. Stevens' Veco connections

Investigators ask for documents on remodeling project

Posted: Monday, June 18, 2007

ANCHORAGE - A federal grand jury in Washington, D.C., has heard evidence about a remodeling project at veteran U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens' home as part of a burgeoning investigation into corruption in Alaska, the Anchorage Daily News reported Sunday.

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The investigation is linked to the VECO Corp. bribery case that produced guilty pleas last month from two of the oil-field service company's top executives, according to law enforcement officials. The investigation also led to federal indictments against one current and two former Republican members of the Alaska House of Representatives on bribery and extortion charges.

Bob Persons, a friend and neighbor of the Alaska Republican senator, was ordered to appear before a grand jury in Washington on May 25, according to the Daily News. The government directed Persons to submit documents related to the work on Stevens' home in Girdwood, a resort town about 40 miles south of Anchorage, including work tied to VECO and contractors who were hired or supervised by VECO, the newspaper said.

Persons was overseeing the home expansion project while Stevens and his wife were in Washington. Persons could not be reached for comment Sunday.

Bob Penney, an Alaska businessman and associate of Stevens, testified two weeks ago before a federal grand jury in Anchorage that has gathered information in the corruption cases. He said Sunday he was "required not to discuss the issue" and referred comments to his attorney, Bruce Gagnon, who could not be reached.

The 83-year-old senator is under close public scrutiny because the FBI last year raided the offices of several Alaska lawmakers including his son, former Alaska Senate President Ben Stevens, as part of an ongoing corruption probe.

The younger Stevens has not been charged and denies any wrongdoing.

The federal investigation led to VECO founder and former CEO Bill Allen pleading guilty last month to bribing state lawmakers in exchange for votes favoring industry on oil legislation. Rick Smith, VECO's former vice president of community and government affairs, also pleaded guilty to federal charges. Both resigned. No sentencing date has yet been set.

The Washington grand jury ordered Persons to produce documents going back more than eight years, including letters and e-mails involving Stevens, his wife, Catherine, or Ben Stevens, as well as documents for all phases of the remodeling project, the Daily News said.

Persons' summons also told him to bring invoices, payments and other documents related to several VECO employees and to the main contractor, Augie Paone of Christensen Builders in Anchorage, according to the newspaper, which did not say how it obtained the information.

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