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Biane Arrested In Colonies Corruption Case

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Former San Bernardino County Supervisor one of four indicted Monday

By Lee Ragin, Jr. –

Former San Bernardino County Supervisor Paul Biane was arrested at about 5 p.m. Tuesday at L.A./Ontario International Airport.

He was booked at the West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga, according to a statement from the District Attorney's Office.

Biane and Jeff Burum, a managing partner at Colonies Partners of Rancho Cucamonga, were named in the 29- count indictment that includes bribery, embezzlement and conspiracy charges.

James Erwin, a former assistant assessor and Mark Kirk, a former chief of staff to Supervisor Gary Ovitt, were also named in the indictment.

“We are not going to tolerate corruption in San Bernardino County,” Dist. Atty. Michael A. Ramos said at an earlier news conference. “These individuals have violated the trust of the citizens of San Bernardino County.”

“When public officials act corruptly, every Californian is their victim,” said Attorney General Kamala D. Harris.

“Let the San Bernardino indictments send a strong message that we will never tolerate this sort of abuse of the public trust.”

Ramos said this was the biggest corruption case he’s ever prosecuted and that it took investigators 2-1/2 years to put together. He said other indictments could be forthcoming.

“We won’t rest until we follow all the evidence to where it leads,” he said.

Five years ago, San Bernardino County agreed to pay $102 million to settle a flood control dispute over land owned by developer Colonies Partners.

Authorities say former Supervisor and Assessor Bill Postmus brokered the deal. He’s already pleaded guilty to taking bribes from Colonies and allegedly pressuring other supervisors to sign off on the settlement. County DA Mike Ramos says the mastermind was Colonies chief Jeff Burum.

“He concocted a scheme to corrupt officials, board members, chiefs of board through threats, extortion, inducements and bribery," Ramos said.

Authorities say developer Burum rewarded Postmus, Biane, Jim Erwin and others for their help with the land dispute. They got lavish gifts, hefty political contributions and other bribes; in exchange, they helped settle the dispute on terms that were favorable to Burum. Burum’s attorney denies the allegations. The alleged scheme began about five years ago, around the time DA Mike Ramos launched San Bernardino County’s public integrity unit.

“We represent the 98.5 percent of county employees, elected county people that do the job right, ethically," Ramos said. "And we’re gonna clean up that other percentage I would say that’s been part of the history of San Bernardino County. Once we complete this investigation, this county is going to be a wonderful place as it is for the majority of people to conduct business without worrying about corruption.”

Ramos hinted that his investigators are looking at other county officials.

Developer Jeff Burum and former county employees Jim Erwin and Mark Kirk surrendered to authorities a few hours before Ramos announced the charges. If convicted on all charges, the suspects could be sentenced to a maximum of six to eight years in prison.

Tuesday evening, San Bernardino County District Attorney Investigators, in cooperation with Ontario Airport Police, apprehended fugitive Paul Biane at approximately 5 p.m. Biane was booked at West Valley Detention Center on a $2 million warrant.

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