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Federal agents looking for evidence of fraud, other crimes at San Bernardino International

A federal search warrant reveals that investigators were looking for evidence of fraud, extortion and other crimes when they raided offices at the San Bernardino International Airport this week. The focus of the investigation is a developer with a checkered past.

Federal transportation officials banned Scot Spencer from the aviation industry six years ago for running a charter jet company without a license. Ten years ago he was convicted of bankruptcy fraud. Despite those troubles, he managed to sign a five-year lease at San Bernardino International, and win contracts to transform the former Norton Air Force base to commercial use. A grand jury report earlier this year targeted Spencer’s alleged mismanagement and questionable financial oversight.

“The imprimatur of a person who may have had a problematic past allows for all kinds of speculation to continue," said Jim Morris, chief of staff for San Bernardino Mayor Patrick Morris, who presides over the Airport Authority.

County and federal authorities seized documents and other items from the offices of the Authority and another agency. Mayor Morris is among those under scrutiny for their ties to Scot Spencer.

“We have no knowledge and are confident that based on all the knowledge that all the executive board and staff have out there, there’s been no criminal conduct here. For all the study that’s been done, that seems like the right investment for this region. That having that asset, it would be silly to just go out there and rip up the airport," Jim Morris said.

Supporters worry that even if investigators uncover no criminal wrongdoing, the controversy will undermine hard-won plans to transform San Bernardino International into a viable commercial airport.