In early 2004, a young fugitive knocked on Bill Allen's door. Bambi Tyree, then 23 and a suspect in one of the most notorious sex and drug rings in recent Anchorage history, had been on the run from police for weeks. She came to Allen looking for help.
At the time, Allen was head of VECO Corp., the largest oilfield services contractor in Alaska, and a major Republican campaign contributor. Allen would later plead guilty to federal bribery and conspiracy charges in a corruption probe into his dealings with former state lawmakers and two of Alaska's three congressional delegates, U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens and U.S. Rep. Don Young. Allen emerged last May as a key government witness in the feds' sweeping investigation, one that stretches from Juneau to Washington, D.C., Seattle to Anchorage.
When Tyree showed up on Allen's doorstep, she was fleeing an underworld of crack addiction and sexual abuse. Allen was friends with Tyree and knew her father, said Bob Bundy, Allen's lawyer. In 2000, her father helped Allen and his company remodel and expand Stevens' Girdwood home, according to the project's foreman--an effort that is now part of the government's high-profile probe into the senator's life.
Tyree, who had a warrant out for her arrest, asked Allen if she could stay at his house, Bundy said. Allen declined, though he did not report her to police, either. The next day she turned herself in to authorities, Bundy said. Tyree, prominent businessman Josef Boehm, and two other men were federally charged, and ultimately pleaded guilty, for their roles in a conspiracy to provide crack cocaine to girls as young as 13 in return for sex.
But police were not done investigating.
Now, for the first time publicly, Anchorage police say Allen's name came up in a separate sex-crime investigation in 2004. That probe was spawned by a tip authorities received as they were still building their case against Tyree and others.
Little is known about this other investigation--including how Allen was involved. Anchorage detectives claim they suspended the case shortly after launching it. The federal government told detectives that it could have interfered with a case it was working, according to an Anchorage police spokesman. But four years later, an FBI spokesman said his agency never asked police to halt the probe. And Bundy said he and Allen know nothing about the police investigation.
(UPDATED: Sources at the U.S. Attorney's office in Anchorage confirmed after this story ran that federal prosecutors had asked police in 2004 to suspend the case because 1) they wanted to focus on the larger sex-ring investigation and 2) that the allegations against Allen were difficult to prove.)
The substance of that investigation is raising questions about Allen's cooperation with the feds' ongoing corruption probe. Last fall, Allen's testimony on behalf of the government helped win convictions against former Alaska Reps. Vic Kohring and Pete Kott for accepting his bribes. Kott and Kohring's lawyers said they are unaware of the police investigation. Had they known the case existed and might have been suspended at the request of the federal government, the lawyers said they would have pressed prosecutors to disclose details to see if it played a role in Allen's plea agreement.
"If the government has done things for Bill Allen in the past, I have the right to know about that," said lawyer John Henry Browne, who represents Kohring.
The investigation in which Allen's name surfaced in 2004 came in the wake of a sensational bust in a South Anchorage neighborhood. In December 2003, Anchorage police raided Josef Boehm's Oceanview Drive home, discovering a world of sex, drugs and underage girls. Tyree, who dated Boehm off and on for years, was deeply involved in the ring
In early 2004, as detectives and federal agents were building their case against Boehm, Tyree and their co-conspirators, police received a tip from somebody related to the investigation about another alleged crime.
This led detectives to launch a separate probe, said Lt. Paul Honeman, an Anchorage Police Department spokesman. "There was an investigation that we were beginning that Bill Allen came up in," Honeman said.
Honeman declined to explain why Allen's name surfaced or provide names of other people in the probe. Allen was neither arrested nor charged with any crime. Bundy, Allen's lawyer, said his client did nothing wrong and was never questioned by police.
"The police may have it wrong," said Bundy, a former U.S. Attorney General for Alaska. Honeman said the department's sex-crime unit headed the investigation, which is classified as suspended but ongoing. Detectives are considering reviving the investigation.
"My understanding is that they are looking back into the investigation," he said. Detectives initially found the case difficult to pursue, he said. First, there was little cooperation from those involved in the probe. Then, the federal government asked police to suspend the case.
"The feds said that if you go down that road, you'll compromise our investigation," Honeman said. "They said they were working an ongoing case that they couldn't tell us about."But that conflicts with statements from the FBI.
Eric Gonzales, an FBI spokesman in Anchorage, said he has heard rumors about the police investigation, but his agency knows nothing about it.
"I've spoken to people here and nobody recalls us telling the police to drop an investigation," he said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney James Goeke--a co-prosecutor in the corruption probe who also helped represent the government in the case against Tyree and Boehm--did not return calls for this story.
When first approached by reporters for an interview last September, Bambi Tyree was climbing from the driver's seat of a 2007 Ford F-150 red pickup parked at Simon's Taco Rico, a Mexican restaurant in Midtown where she was working at the time.
The truck's license plate indicated it was registered to Allen. When asked how she knew Allen, Tyree declined comment.
Tyree was borrowing the truck to run an errand, Bundy said, adding that Allen has since given the truck to his grandson. "Bill was eating at the restaurant where Bambi works," Bundy said. "She was doing laundry at the Laundromat and said, 'Oh man, I need to do my laundry,' and he said, 'Oh, take my truck,' and gave her the key."
Bundy said Tyree and Allen's relationship is platonic. Before her father, Mark Tyree, died in 2005, Allen pledged that he would look out for his daughter, Bundy said.
"He has done nothing but help her," Bundy said.
Mark Tyree was a plumber and worked on the VECO remodeling of Stevens' home eight years ago, said Dave Anderson, Allen's nephew and the VECO foreman on the project. The renovation, which allegedly involved VECO labor, materials, subcontractors and other expenses, is the subject of a federal investigation into whether the senator was billed and paid for all of the work.
Anderson said he has testified before a federal grand jury about the Stevens remodel, as well as answered questions from the FBI, including about Tyree and Allen. He said he does not know much except that he saw the two together a couple times, including around the time when Boehm was arrested. "Here's Bambi showing up at the house," Anderson said in an interview last fall. "It seemed weird."
Bundy confirmed that Tyree came to Allen looking for help when she was on the run from police in early 2004. It was a difficult time for the young woman. Most of her short life had been marred by drugs and sexual abuse, according to court filings. After Boehm was busted, the case drew statewide media attention because of his reputation and the lurid testimony of his victims.
Boehm was a well-known businessman and president of Alaska Industrial Hardware. Among AIH's customers were oil industry contractors, including VECO. He pleaded guilty to charges of conspiring to give crack cocaine to underage teenagers in return for sex. During his 2005 sentencing hearing, female victims described his former house as a sex and drug den where troubled teenagers converged to smoke crack and have sex, sometimes with adults.(Two weeks ago, five of his alleged victims settled state and federal civil lawsuits against him.) Tyree told federal investigators she brought runaway girls to his house and gave them crack.
Tyree cooperated with prosecutors and, for testifying against Boehm at his sentencing hearing, was given a lighter sentence of three years, down from the 10 years or more she was facing. Tyree was released from prison in mid-2006. Boehm is serving an 11-year sentence--the maximum--in a Texas federal prison. Boehm declined interviews through a friend.
Sue Ellen Tatter, a federal public defender who represents Tyree, declined to comment except to say in an email that, "I refuse to believe that the feds told (Anchorage police) to put any investigation on hold."
As early as spring 2004--roughly the same time local authorities were pursuing the investigation in which Allen's name came up--the FBI had begun its corruption probe at the state capitol, according to court-filed wiretaps. The government has not disclosed the roots of its investigation and it is unclear if Allen was an FBI target in early 2004. But by fall 2005, the FBI was secretly listening to his phone calls.
Last May, Allen pleaded guilty to bribery, conspiracy and other charges. Allen is cooperating with the feds, in part, for a possibly reduced prison sentence, according to his plea agreement filed in federal court. The government also allowed him to complete the $365 million sale of VECO to Denver-based CH2M Hill after he was indicted.
If he fulfills his obligations, the government has said his adult children will not be charged with crimes arising from its investigation. The plea agreement does not say if his children have faced charges or what charges the government would consider filing against them. Neither does Allen's deal with the government mention anything about a police investigation.
But it does state that the agreement is only between Allen and the U.S. Justice Department's Public Integrity Section, and "it does not bind any United States Attorney's Office or any other office or agency of the United States, or any state or local prosecutor."
Last fall, the public watched as Allen's cooperation with the government unfolded in Anchorage's federal court.
His testimony in two bribery trials helped the feds win convictions against former state Reps. Pete Kott and Vic Kohring.
Allen told jurors that he bribed the then-lawmakers in 2006 for their influence during a controversial vote before the Legislature to raise taxes on oil producers such as ExxonMobil, BP and ConocoPhillips, which contracted with VECO.
Kott, who has appealed his conviction and six-year sentence, reported to an Oregon federal prison earlier this month. Kohring is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 11. The trial date for former state Rep. Bruce Weyhrauch, also facing corruption charges in connection with Allen, is on hold pending a government appeal to the 9th U.S. Circuit Appeals Court.
In an email interview, Jim Wendt, the lawyer representing Kott, said he was unaware of Allen's name coming up in a 2004 police investigation. If the FBI did call on detectives to suspend the case, Wendt said he would have cross-examined Allen about it during Kott's trial.
Wendt said such a suspended investigation could provide "motive for Bill Allen to lie and/or embellish his testimony to satisfy the prosecution, thereby keeping the facts of the (police) investigation hidden."
Browne, Kohring's lawyer, said he, too, was surprised to hear of the police investigation. "This is something that I would have looked into," Browne said. "They have an obligation to tell me if they knew about it."
But Bundy, Allen's lawyer, said there is no hidden deal. "If there was an investigation, it was small and limited," he said, "and I can tell you unequivocally that it played no part in the talks of Bill cooperating.