FBI searches offices of at least 6 Alaska lawmakers; probe involves oil field services company

Thursday, August 31st 2006, 10:29 pm
By: News On 6

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) _ Federal agents raided the offices of at least six Alaska lawmakers Thursday in an investigation of large oil field services company, officials said.

The company named in the search warrant was VECO Corp., an Anchorage-based oil field services and construction company, said Tam Cook, the Legislature's top attorney. VECO's executives are major contributors to political campaigns.

``This morning, investigators from the FBI interviewed me in my office regarding an investigation of VECO,'' Republican Rep. Vic Kohring said in a statement. He said he cooperated, and was told he was not a target of the investigation.

Two legislative aides, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal from federal agents who told them not to talk to reporters, said FBI agents were looking for any ties including financial information and gifts.

One aide who did not view the warrant directly but was told its contents by officials said it allowed for the search of computer files, personal diaries and other documentation.

The other aide said he read the warrant and it named VECO officials Bill Allen, Rick Smith and Pete Leathard.

A message left Thursday with VECO was not immediately returned.

FBI spokesman Eric Gonzalez said the FBI and Internal Revenue Service executed search warrants in Anchorage, Juneau, Wasilla, Eagle River and Girdwood.

He declined to say who was served search warrants.

The warrants had not been filed with the clerk's office at the U.S. District Court by Thursday afternoon. The U.S. Attorney's office in Anchorage referred questions to a Department of Justice spokeswoman in Washington, D.C., who didn't answer her phone.

Agents conducted office searches in both Juneau and Anchorage belonging to Sen. John Cowdery, R-Anchorage, the Senate Rules chairman. The senator stood by in Anchorage as authorities sifted through documentation.

The offices of Senate President Ben Stevens, R-Anchorage; Kohring; Rep. Bruce Weyhrauch, R-Juneau; Sen. Donald Olson, D-Nome; and Rep. Pete Kott, R-Eagle River also were searched.

The blinds were mostly drawn and doors shut in most offices being searched at the Legislative Information Office in Anchorage. Agent wearing blue rubber gloves were visible through gaps in the blinds, rifling through documents in Stevens' Anchorage office.

Kohring, contacted at his legislative office in Wasilla, would not confirm that his office was part of the raid or what agents were searching for, saying ``I can't talk about that right now.'' Agents were seen leaving his Juneau office with boxes that appeared to contain documents.

Messages left with other lawmakers and Senate Republican majority spokesman Jeff Turner were not immediately returned.