FBI sniffing around Gibbons: Nevada governor facing FBI probe of classified federal contracts
CARSON CITY (AP) – Federal authorities confirmed Thursday that Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons is being investigated for failing to properly report gifts or payments from a software company that was awarded secret military contracts when he was in Congress.
The newly elected Republican governor denied any wrongdoing and told The Associated Press that “they can look as deeply as they need to and I encourage them to do so, but there would have been absolutely no influence.”
A federal law enforcement official confirmed the FBI probe. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation, said the inquiry is focusing on what role Gibbons played in awarding military contracts to eTreppid Technologies LLC in Reno and whether he received any gifts in exchange.
Gibbons said he had not been contacted by the FBI regarding his contacts with Warren Trepp, a longtime friend and owner of eTreppid who contributed nearly $100,000 to Gibbons’ campaign for governor.
“They never talked to me. They never have given me any kind of hint or whatever,” he said.
The governor said he’s a “pretty public person” and figured that if an investigation was under way he would have been contacted.
Asked whether he had hired an attorney as a result of the reported investigation, Gibbons said friends have volunteered to help and he would look into the issue if needed.
“I’ve done nothing wrong though,” he said.
Trepp, a former chief trader for convicted junk-bond dealer Michael Milken, also has denied any wrongdoing. He didn’t immediately return calls Thursday to his Reno office.
The Wall Street Journal first reported that investigators were looking at whether federal contracting rules were violated in the case involving Gibbons, who was sworn in last month as governor after five terms in Congress, where he served on the House Intelligence and Armed Services committees.
Gibbons said he had read the news story and was “disturbed” that it “tried to connect dots where there are no dots to connect.”
“I don’t think that I have done anything that hasn’t been done by others, which is opening doors for businesses in the state of Nevada,” Gibbons said.
Gibbons had asked the House ethics committee in November for an opinion about whether he improperly reported private jet flights and a Caribbean cruise paid for by Trepp, whose company has millions of dollars worth of classified federal software contracts from the Air Force, U.S. Special Operations Command and the CIA.
The Journal reported new evidence had emerged in a federal lawsuit in Reno involving Trepp and Dennis Montgomery, his former technology chief at eTreppid. The two are involved in litigation related to the copyrights of the company’s video surveillance technology, which reportedly is used with unmanned aircraft to identify terrorism suspects.
The evidence cited includes e-mails to Trepp discussing a payment or gifts to then-Rep. Gibbons. The e-mails also show Gibbons using his congressional office to help the company seek classified military and civilian contracts, the newspaper said.
“Please don’t forget to bring the money you promised Jim and Dawn,” Trepp’s wife, Jale Trepp, said in a March 22, 2005, e-mail days before Trepp and his wife embarked on the Caribbean cruise with Jim Gibbons and his wife, Dawn, a former Nevada state assemblywoman.
According to the Journal, Trepp responded minutes later saying: “Don’t you ever send this kind of message to me! Erase this message from your computer right now!”
Gibbons said he knew nothing about the e-mails.
Gibbons did not disclose the cruise and travel on Trepp’s leased private jet, as required by House ethics rules. He later asked the House Ethics Committee for an exemption, but left office before any action was taken.
Trepp’s attorney, Stephen Peek, told the Journal that Trepp “has had no inquires or questions from any federal officials about his relationship with Jim Gibbons.”
Tom Collins, the state Democratic Party chairman who has sought access to the Reno court records because they may show “potential improper conduct,” renewed his criticism of the governor.
“Gov. Gibbons already has made a mockery of his office in more ways than one, and now we learn the FBI is investigating him for political corruption,” he said. “This governor has embarrassed the state, and lost most of his effectiveness and respect. And we’re not even two months into his term.”
Trepp has sued Collins for defamation.
— Associated Press writer Lara Jakes Jordan in Washington contributed to this report.
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