Anchorage police have reopened an investigation into allegations that Bill Allen, the government's key witness in the ongoing corruption inquiry and once a leading political force in Alaska, had sex with an underage girl in the mid-1990s.
The investigation originally began in 2004 as an offshoot of the scandalous Josef Boehm sex and drug ring, according to Detective Kevin Vandegriff, who worked with federal investigators on the Boehm case.
But when federal prosecutors asked Anchorage police to suspend the investigation shortly after it began, the department complied, he said.
The Allen investigation was dormant until December, when it was reopened, said Capt. Gardner Cobb, the city's chief of detectives. The evidence of wrongdoing on the part of Allen, now 70, was contradictory and never strong, both Cobb and Vandegriff said.
But Vandegriff decided to go back into the case, interviewing witnesses and reviewing the record, "to make sure there's nothing else out there that we're missing," Cobb said in an interview in December. Vandegriff is still following leads and the investigation remains open, APD spokesman Paul Honeman said Friday.
The specific allegation was sexual abuse of a minor, Cobb said, a crime for which there is no statute of limitations.
A MIGHTY FALL
Allen pleaded guilty in May to bribing Alaska lawmakers. Once the chairman and an owner of the oil field services company Veco, he was forced to sell the company and now faces a lengthy prison term. That's a stunning fall for a power broker who handed oil-policy decrees to a stable of bribed legislators and who regularly socialized with senators and other national political figures who came to Alaska as guests of Sen. Ted Stevens.
At the time the Boehm investigation was developing, from 2003 to 2004, Allen was still a major player in Alaska politics, as he had been for decades, and was a reliable source of campaign money for state candidates, members of Alaska's congressional delegation and other national politicians. In 2000 he was Alaska co-chairman of President Bush's election campaign.
In an interview in October, Vandegriff wouldn't name Allen's alleged victim or victims. He said Allen was not a direct subject of the Boehm investigation. But he said there was one person involved in both the Boehm case and the investigation of Allen: Bambi Tyree, one of Boehm's co-defendants.
Vince Blomfield, Tyree's boyfriend starting around 1999 when he was 36 and she was 18, said in an interview with a private investigator working for Boehm that Tyree claimed to have had a sexual relationship with Allen when she was 14 or 15. Allen would have been in his late 50s at the time. The interview with Blomfield was cited in a court filing by Boehm's attorneys, who were trying to portray Tyree as having a history of preying on older men with money.
Allen's attorney, Robert Bundy, said Allen denied having an improper relationship with Tyree, now 27.
Cobb wouldn't say what prompted the department to reopen the case. But the action follows inquiries by the Daily News, a surge in activity in civil lawsuits by Boehm's underage victims, and a reference to the Allen-Tyree allegation in a closed hearing in at least one of the recent federal corruption trials, where Allen was the government's chief witness. The existence of the investigation was first reported last week by the weekly Anchorage Press.
Tyree's father, Mark, who died in 2005, also figures in the ongoing federal corruption investigation in Alaska. He installed the furnace and plumbing in the Veco-supervised renovations to Sen. Ted Stevens' home in 2000, according to Robert Williams, the former Veco employee who hired Tyree.
Mark Tyree's name is mentioned in at least one federal grand jury subpoena concerning Veco and Ted Stevens.
COCAINE AND GIRLS
Boehm, now 64, was the wealthy owner of Alaska Industrial Hardware and other businesses, but his deep addiction to crack cocaine and his unrelenting attraction to girls and young women got him an 11-year federal prison sentence in 2005. He is currently at the minimum security Seagoville Federal Correctional Institution near Dallas.
Tyree was also a crack addict. As one of Boehm's original co-defendants, she pleaded guilty to finding the teenage girls for the ring in return for a seemingly limitless supply of cocaine sold to Boehm by her friends and others. Recognizing her cooperation with authorities and her abuse as a young teen by Boehm and other men, Judge John Sedwick sentenced her to three years.
She was released Sept. 6, 2006, and is living and working in Anchorage. Through her attorney, federal public defender Sue Ellen Tatter, Tyree declined to comment.
In the October interview, Vandegriff said he heard no suggestions that Allen was a visitor to Boehm's Oceanview home or the many "parties" Boehm held at hotels around town.
Though Tyree's extensive juvenile record remains sealed, her background has surfaced in several court cases, including a separate federal drug prosecution in 1996. The record shows a long pattern of involvement with older men. Bambi had just turned 15 when she, her older sister Tia, then 18, and 42-year-old Billy Ray Lang were arrested at the airport after a flight from California. The Tyree sisters had a combined 11 pounds of cocaine strapped into girdles they had bought before the trip in a Spenard extra-large shop.
Bambi was ordered to McLaughlin Youth Center. But Tia was held in jail and the girls' parents, Mark and Cris Tyree, testified about the family in an effort to get her released on bail. Bambi, a frequent runaway since age 11 and a Wasilla middle-school dropout, had moved in with Lang in the fall of 1995 when she was 14, Cris Tyree said. Cris Tyree described Lang as Tia's pimp and said that he ran an Anchorage call-girl service named "Cover Girls."
"I was told he was using my daughters," Cris Tyree testified.
Boehm pleaded guilty to cocaine and sexual exploitation charges. The government sought to portray his crimes as particularly egregious, deserving the maximum sentence. The defense tried to show him as a doddering, addled old man exploited for his money by a string of addicts and dealers, with Bambi Tyree first among them. It was a pattern Tyree had established for herself, they asserted, referring to Bill Allen. Vince Blomfield said it was the case in his relationship with her as well.
"She suffers from a heavy crack addiction, and her actions were geared toward obtaining funds to feed that habit," the defense said in a memorandum filed under seal and obtained by the Daily News. "Tyree often obtained the required funds by exploiting rich men."
'B.A.' CITED IN TRANSCRIPTS
Citing their private investigator's interviews with Blomfield and another friend of Tyree's, Marty Myre, the memorandum said that in addition to Boehm, "she developed a relationship with another rich and powerful businessman in Alaska, B.A."
"Bambi claimed that B.A. bought her a vehicle and that on one occasion he gave her $5,000," the defense document said.
While the court documents don't further identify "B.A.," in footnotes, the memorandum referenced pages in the transcripts of a Sept. 23, 2004, interview with Blomfield and a Nov. 10, 2004, interview with Myre. Copies of the transcripts obtained by the Daily News show the initials "B.A." referred to Bill Allen on those pages.
Blomfield, who now works at a Fairbanks strip club, turned down a request for an interview. Myre, a guide and contractor, also wouldn't talk.
LOVE AND MONEY
In the transcript of the Sept. 23, 2004, interview, Blomfield said he met Tyree at a convenience store phone booth around 1999 when she was 18. He pegged her for a party girl and asked her if she wanted a ride. She did, and the relationship developed quickly before coming to a halt when his money ran out, he said.
Tyree told Blomfield she was just ending a relationship with Allen, Blomfield said.
"He figured out, I think, to get as far away from -- you know, because to my knowledge, Bill Allen did not use drugs. He drank and partied with her," Blomfield told the private investigator.
Blomfield said Tyree told him she had a sexual relationship with Allen when she was 14 or 15.
That age range would've extended from the time she ran away to Bill Ray Lang's place in East Anchorage to after her release from McLaughlin on the cocaine trafficking charge.
"His name (Allen) came up constantly," Blomfield said. "She would leave me and go get money from him," Blomfield said. "Her father literally told me under his own words that he had met Bill and that Bill had told him that he was dating his daughter." Blomfield said he was present when Bambi called Allen in Washington, D.C.
"I spent Christmas with Bambi's family, and there were presents under the tree for the entire family from Bill Allen. He had bought her sister a car. He had given her father a number of contracts."
Blomfield said he thought Allen got the car for Bambi Tyree when she was 16. The family always referred to the vehicle "as the car that Bill bought," Blomfield said.
Public records confirm that Bambi Tyree got a new 1999 black Volkswagen Beetle on Nov. 30, 1998, but she wasn't 16 -- she was approaching her 18th birthday and just getting out of another stay at McLaughlin. Nothing in the record indicates who made the down payment. Her parents were listed as co-owners.
Three pickups owned by members of the Tyree family are connected to Allen or Veco.
A 1994 Ford originally owned by Veco Equipment was transferred to Mark Tyree in 2002, according to public records. The truck is now registered to Tyree's brother, James. The records don't show how the truck was financed.
State records show that a 1998 Ford pickup was similarly transferred to Bambi's brother Anthony from Veco Equipment Inc. on Sept. 13, 2006, again with no reference to a price.
Bill Allen's name appears as the note holder on the registration for a 2003 Ford truck registered by Anthony, according to state vehicle records.
Anthony Tyree couldn't be located for comment. A neighbor of the family home in Wasilla said she believed Anthony is attending school out of state.
BLOMFIELD CLAIM DISPUTED
In a handwritten note to the Daily News last year, Cris Tyree said Blomfield never came to her house at Christmas. She described him as "an unreliable source" with drug problems himself and a criminal record. She wouldn't answer questions.
Court records show Blomfield had several forgery and escape convictions, mostly misdemeanors and all related to his drug addiction. In 2001, his mother urged a judge to give him a maximum jail sentence to keep him away from narcotics. (Ironically, some of the money that financed his cocaine use during the time he was dating Tyree would have come from the FBI: His share of money paid by the agency to the real estate company owned by Blomfield's family, which built the FBI's downtown headquarters, according to information in one of his court cases.)
ALLEN BEFRIENDED FAMILY
Robert Bundy, Allen's attorney, said Allen had an above-board friendship with the entire Tyree family.
"Bill says he never had any kind of illicit relationship with her, ever," Bundy said. "(Mark) Tyree was a plumber who did good work, did a lot of work on Bill's stuff. He got to know him over the years."
Bundy said Allen doesn't remember how he met Mark Tyree, but it was "before he ever heard of Bambi."
"He and Mark became pretty good pals because they kind of had similar backgrounds, they both dropped out of high school, and got a trade," Bundy said. Allen never had a sexual relationship with Tyree at any age, Bundy said.
Mark Tyree died of cancer at his Wasilla home on April 1, 2005. Allen was with Tyree at his deathbed, Bundy said, and promised to take care of the family.
CASE WAS SHAKY
Detective Vandegriff of the Anchorage Police Department declined to say whether Blomfield was one of his original sources when he opened the case against Allen in February 2004.
"It came up as part of the Boehm investigation," he said. "It just came out as part of the interviews."
The initial case against Allen "wasn't very solid," he added. "We had some contradictory information, but I was just kind of getting started."
Then federal prosecutors told him to "cease and desist," he said.
The joint city-federal prosecution was run by two assistant U.S. attorneys, Frank Russo and James Goeke. Tyree testified that both prosecutors participated in the 15 to 20 hours of debriefings she underwent with the FBI and detectives as part of her plea deal.
Goeke, now with the prosecution team pursuing the corruption cases, didn't return several calls for comment.
Russo acknowledged "there were allegations along the lines of his (Allen's) involvement with Bambi Tyree," but said he asked Vandegriff to suspend the Allen investigation for purely practical reasons: The Boehm case was complex, with dozens of witnesses, and Boehm himself had a high-powered, three-attorney defense team that fought at every opportunity. Nearly 1,000 documents were filed, and that was in a case that never went to trial.
"We said, 'Hey, why don't we put this aside until later. We have enough to focus on,' " Russo said. That was his only concern, he said.
Federal prosecutors and the FBI have not yet provided a historical account of how the corruption investigation began and how it evolved with Veco and Allen at its center. Court filings by federal prosecutors since made public show it was well under way in the fall of 2005 with court-ordered wiretaps and later, video surveillance of Allen and a Veco vice president. That would have been 18 months after Vandegriff opened his case.
Russo added, "There were no charges ever brought against Allen for anything related to what Boehm was doing. In terms of the sexual assault of a minor, that's something that APD has on their files; they're free to do whatever they want with that."
Vandegriff said Russo's request was fine with him.
"I had plenty on my plate to do with the Boehm investigation, and when I was told to stop that one, no problem," the detective said in the October interview.
While mentions of the relationship between Tyree and Allen have appeared in court, most have been heard in closed proceedings or referenced in sealed filings. That was the case in the Boehm prosecution, and also in the recent federal bribery prosecutions.
Judge Sedwick, the federal district judge who presided over the Boehm cases, is also the judge in the corruption cases.
"You can presume ... that the judge knows all about it," Russo said, referring to the Allen allegations.
ONE CASE LED TO ANOTHER
The issue arose at a closed-door hearing during former Rep. Pete Kott's corruption trial in September just as Allen was taking the stand. Government prosecutors, required to disclose information about their witness, volunteered that Allen wasn't coerced to plead guilty by evidence concerning his relationship with Tyree, according to Kott's lawyer Jim Wendt. Had that happened, Wendt said, it might have been relevant to his case.
Still, Allen's decision to cooperate with the government, made in a single August day in 2006, seemed extraordinarily swift, Wendt said. "I did not understand why Bill Allen would have flipped so fast, and I still don't understand. I don't know if it has anything to do with this young woman or for other reasons," Wendt said.
Asked whether Allen's relationship with Tyree was one of the issues that arose during closed hearings in the next bribery case, that of Rep. Victor Kohring, defense attorney John Henry Browne said, "That's something that we were not allowed to go into," but also said he couldn't "confirm or deny that that was one of them because that would be violating the order of the judge."
In December, secrecy issues in the Boehm case flared anew, this time involving more than a half-dozen plaintiffs -- mostly formerly juvenile victims -- seeking to recover damages from Boehm and his codefendants in the criminal case.
With lawyers poised to depose Vandegriff's APD partner in the Boehm investigation, Detective Steven Boltz, the U.S. Attorney's office intervened to make sure his testimony remained under seal. Assistant U.S. attorney Daniel Cooper said at an emergency hearing in federal court Dec. 18, just before Boltz' deposition, that he was trying to ensure that the identities of juvenile witnesses were protected and grand jury proceedings remained secret. He didn't mention Allen or Tyree.
The civil cases against Boehm were tentatively settled two weeks ago. The terms are secret.
Find Richard Mauer online at adn.com/contact/rmauer or call 257-4345.