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US: Investigators eye remodeling at Alaska home of Sen. Ted Stevens

Associated Press
May 29th, 2007

Federal agents are looking into Sen. Ted Stevens' role in the ongoing investigation into the remodeling of his Alaska home, according to two law enforcement officials familiar with the probe.

The two officials said Stevens was not considered a target of the investigation. They spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the ongoing inquiry.

The investigation has been open for some time, and is linked to the VECO Corp. bribery case that earlier this month produced guilty pleas from two of the oil-field service company's top executives, the law enforcement officials said.

The FBI and Justice Department are investigating corruption in Alaska – which may extend to the state's federally elected officials in Washington, the officials said.

Three contractors who worked on the remodeling project at Steven's home in Girdwood, a resort town about 40 miles south of Anchorage, said the FBI asked them to turn over their records from the job, the Anchorage Daily News reported Tuesday. One also said he testified about the project before a federal grand jury in December.

The remodeling work in summer and fall 2000 more than doubled the size of the house, a four-bedroom structure that is Stevens' official residence in Alaska.

Ted Stevens and his wife, Catherine, declined to answer questions about the Girdwood house. Stevens' office issued a prepared statement.

“While I understand the public's interest in the ongoing federal investigation, it has been my long-standing policy to not comment on such matters,” he said. “Therefore, I will withhold comment at this time to avoid even the appearance that I might influence this investigation.”

Federal agents last summer raided offices of six state legislators, including those of one of Ted Stevens' sons, Ben Stevens, who was then the president of the state Senate. The FBI said then that it also had executed a search warrant in Girdwood. The location of that search has not been officially disclosed.

VECO, an oil-field service company with a long history of lobbying and donating to political campaigns, was a target of investigators, according to search warrants that became public. On May 7, the company's longtime chief executive, Bill Allen, and a vice president, Rick Smith, pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy, bribery and tax charges. They are now cooperating with authorities.

Four current or former Alaska state lawmakers have been indicted on federal corruption charges.

Augie Paone, owner of Christensen Builders Inc. of Anchorage, said Bill Allen hired him to complete the framing and most of the interior carpentry at Stevens' home. He was directed to send bills to VECO, where someone would examine them for accuracy, before sending them to Stevens, he said.

Paone said that as far as he knew, Stevens and his wife, Catherine, paid his bills. He sent at least $100,000 in invoices to the Stevenses in Washington, he said. 

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