Politics

Disgraced Alaska oil executive Bill Allen dead at 85

Bill Allen

Bill Allen, the disgraced Alaska oil services executive, died in Colorado on Wednesday, according to a funeral home in Grand Junction. He was 85.

Allen and Veco, his oil field services company, became key players in an Alaska political corruption scandal that played out in the mid-2000s. Allen was the central government witness following his guilty plea on bribery charges in 2007. Several state lawmakers were sentenced to time behind bars for accepting money from Allen and Veco.

The former Alaska oilman watched his business empire, career and credibility implode amid a sweeping and high-profile public corruption inquiry. For about three years, he was federal prosecutors’ ace-in-the-hole witness, admitting to offering cash and promises to state lawmakers who were enmeshed in a rewrite of the state’s oil taxes.

Allen was a key witness against former Alaska U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, who was convicted in 2008 of failing to properly disclose gifts. The case was later dismissed. An investigation determined that federal prosecutors in the case engaged in “significant, widespread and, at times, intentional misconduct.”

Allen was convicted of bribery and tax violations and served time in federal prison. He admitted to giving cash and other gifts to Alaska state lawmakers to entice them to support oil and gas legislation that would help his company and its clients.

He served most the latter part of his prison term in New Mexico, where his son owned a ranch and race horses.

Allen also faced allegations of sexual abuse of minors. He was sued in 2014 by a woman claiming to be his teen-sex victim. Allen admitted to having sex with Paula Roberds, though he claimed he thought she was 19, not 15 as she had claimed. Roberds said she met Allen in 1999 and they carried on a relationship for several years.

In 2010, top officials at the U.S. Department of Justice quashed federal prosecution of Allen on sex charges involving minors.

After Allen pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges, Veco was sold to Denver based CH2M Hill for $146 million that was divided among the company’s six owners, including Allen and his three children.

Allen had been behind Veco almost since its inception. Born in New Mexico and raised in Oregon, he first arrived in Alaska around 1968 to work as a welder in Alaska’s oil fields.

He soon joined a new welding enterprise started by Wayne Veltri. Veltri Enterprises became VE Construction, and eventually Veco. Allen bought out Veltri in 1970.

Veco eventually expanded from oil field services to involvement in a commercial gold mine in Interior Alaska, a drilling and mine supply company in Grand Junction, Colorado, and a shipyard in Houston, Texas — which became a cash drain for the company and landed it in bankruptcy court in 1982.

The company was restructured and eventually made millions as the chief contractor for the cleanup of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989.

That same year, Allen purchased the Anchorage Times, declaring he would make it “the best newspaper in Alaska.” The Anchorage Times was shuttered three years later. Through an unorthodox agreement, Allen continued to publish an opinion and commentary column called “Voice of the Times” within the Daily News opinion pages.

Allen continued to publish within the Daily News until pleading guilty to bribing state legislators in 2007.

Veco was known for donating large sums to political candidates in Alaska even before the 2007 corruption probe. A fundraising scheme that deducted money from Veco employee paychecks and funneled tens of thousands of dollars to favored Republican candidates was deemed illegal by state officials in 1984.

Allen became personally involved in an effort to rescue three gray whales trapped in ice off the coast of Alaska in 1988. Veco spent $150,000 on the effort. A Hollywood film based on those events and Allen’s involvement — “Big Miracle” — was released in 2012.

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Iris Samuels

Iris Samuels is a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News focusing on state politics. She previously covered Montana for The Associated Press and wrote for the Kodiak Daily Mirror.

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