Monday, May 4, 2009

Derby winner's owner has ties to Alaska bribery scandal

Posted on Sun, May. 03, 2009
Richard Mauer | Anchorage Daily News
last updated: May 03, 2009 09:10:55 AM

ANCHORAGE — If it weren't for the plea deal that his dad, former Veco chief
executive Bill Allen, made with federal prosecutors, Mark Allen might not
have been in the winner's circle Saturday at the Kentucky Derby,
celebrating the victory of his thoroughbred Mine That Bird and a $2 million purse.
Bill Allen, in pleading guilty in 2007 to three counts related to his
central role in the Alaska public corruption scandal, won immunity from federal
criminal charges for Mark Allen.
Mine That Bird, a 50-to-1 long-shot, stunned the racing world when he came
from behind and won the Derby, America's premier thoroughbred event. Mark
Allen's Double Eagle Ranch of Roswell, N.M., along with a neighbor, Leonard
Blach, purchased the gelding last year. The racing Web site
said they paid $400,000 after the horse had initially sold for $9,500 as a
While prosecutors haven't said whether they could have charged Mark Allen,
Bill Allen himself has testified that his son paid off a state legislator.
A felony conviction against Mark Allen would have led to revocation of his
license as a racehorse owner in New Mexico, racing officials there said.
Under Bill Allen's plea deal with the Justice Department, he was required
to cooperate fully with the government and provide "substantial assistance
to the ongoing investigation." In return, the government agreed to "not
charge Allen's son, Mark Allen, or other family members of Allen with any
criminal offenses arising out the government's investigation that have been
disclosed to the government."
Bill Allen's testimony about his son’s payoff to a legislator came in
October during the trial of former U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens. While Allen was under
orders by the judge in the case to not name any legislators who received
Veco or Allen money &mash; one would have been former state Sen. Ben Stevens,
Ted's son, and the judge wanted to avoid prejudicing the jury — Allen used
the pronoun "her" to describe the legislator paid by Mark.
In March, former Rep. Bev Masek pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit
bribery for accepting at least $4,000 from Allen. Among the overt acts listed
in the conspiracy charge was that a "relative" of Bill Allen — the name
wasn't given — gave her "several" thousand dollars in cash at a restaurant in
South Anchorage on April 18, 2003, after she complained to Allen that she
was broke.
"Masek accepted this money knowing that Veco and its (oil-company) clients
had matters pending before the Alaska State Legislature that were important
to Allen and Veco's business interests," the charge against Masek said.
Two weeks later, Bill Allen himself bribed her with $2,000 to spike a bill
that would have raised oil taxes, according to her plea.
Bill Allen’s testimony played a strong role in the convictions of two
former state legislators accused of bribery, and he was the government’s chief
witness against Stevens. Lawyers for Stevens argued that Allen had an
incentive to lie in his testimony to ensure the government would keep the bargain
and not charge Mark.
Veco Corp. itself has also not been charged, though Allen said he was told
by prosecutors that such a charge remains an option. Allen and his three
grown children, owners of most of Veco stock, sold the company to the
international engineering firm CH2M Hill in 2007. According to sales documents,
Mark Allen’s share, before taxes, was about $30 million.
The Anchorage Daily News reported last summer that Mark Allen went on a
horse-buying spree starting in 2007. He spent nearly $726,000 for eight horses
at the Ruidoso Select Quarter Horse sale in New Mexico that August, one of
the breed’s premiere events. His Double Eagle Ranch paid the highest price
for any horse at that sale — $460,000 for a colt.
Bill Allen has testified that although he tried to interest his son in
Veco, it didn’t work out.
"He didn’t like it," Allen said in the Stevens trial. "He wanted to get
back with his horses."
The family had a horse ranch in Grand Junction, Colo., then Mark bought a
place in Roswell which he owned with his wife, Peggy. The couple is
An older half-brother of Mine That Bird, So Long Birdie, initially belonged
to a partnership that included Mark and Bill Allen, Stevens, Double Musky
restaurant owner Bob Persons and other prominent Alaskans. Persons said
last year that the Allens had bought So Long Birdie from the partnership. The
horse stands at stud at Blach’s Buena Suerte Equine Clinic, near the Double
Eagle Ranch.
In an interview in July, Blach, who shared the winner’s circle with Allen
Saturday, claimed to not be very familiar with Mark Allen.
"I see him once in a while," Blach said then. "I just don’t know too much
about him, to tell the truth about it." (Blach told reporters on Saturday
that he and Mark Allen have "been friends for years.")
Chip Woolley, Mine That Bird’s trainer from Farmington, N.M., was also
reluctant to speak about Mark Allen when contacted in July.
"If you got questions about him, you need to call him," Woolley said. "If
you want to ask questions about Mark’s horses, call him. You don’t even
know me or nothing about me, so, well I don’t know you or nothing about you."
Mine That Bird indirectly figured into one of the strangest events in the
Stevens trial. After the jurors began deliberating, one of them, Marian
Hinnant, suddenly skipped town. Initially she told the judge her father had
died, but then admitted she had a ticket to see the Breeders Cup, a major
thoroughbred stakes race Santa Anita Park near Los Angeles.
Mine That Bird, recently purchased by Allen and Blach, ran in the Breeders
Cup Juvenile as two-year-old. In that race, Mine That Bird was true to form
— he was a 30-to-1 long shot and came in 12th.
Hinnant was replaced by an alternate, who later blogged about her
experiences. Before the Stevens case was thrown out for prosecutorial errors,
Stevens’ defense cited Hinnant and the blogger as reasons a new trial was

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