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United States

Accusations denied

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A San Gorgonio Pass wind company and six of its associates are being accused of laundering political campaign contributions. Wintec Ltd of North Palm Springs is being accused by California's political reform agency, the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC).

Seven contributions of $1000 were made to the re-election campaign of Riverside County Supervisor Norton Younglove in 1990, according to the FPPC complaint. Wintec president Fred Noble allegedly encouraged seven people to each give money and then reimbursed them for the contributions. Because Younglove's campaign was never told that Noble and the company were the true source of the donations, it was reported as coming from the individuals. Such laundering schemes are serious violations of the Political Reform Act. The FPPC has said Younglove was unaware of any wrongdoing and has not charged him accordingly. Younglove, according to the complaints, however, did acknowledge helping the company lower its property tax liability and was promised campaign contributions.

Wintec officials deny wrongdoing and say the accusations are based upon testimony from an employee dismissed three years ago for embezzling. Officials say, too, they will fight the accusations through an administrative hearing rather than negotiate a settlement with the FPPC. The matter is expected to go to a hearing this fall, probably late September or early October, said the FPPC's Jeanette Turvill on June 6. She agrees with Wintec that it is unlikely to be settled and will probably go to a judge.

Noble and the company face seven laundering counts, one for each contribution. In addition, five of the seven officials, Miles Barrett, Ray Coulter, Edward Haven, Jeff Walton and Sue Walters Barrett are charged with one count each of failing to tell the campaign that Wintec was the true source of the donation. Each count carries a maximum fine of $2000. According to the complaint, Younglove told investigators that Noble asked him to intervene with the county assessor and the Assessment Appeals Board regarding a dispute over assessment of wind turbines. Ultimately, Wintec had its assessment lowered. Noble promised to contribute to Younglove's campaign and to "get friends to contribute as well," according to the complaint. The politician told the Riverside Press Enterprise newspaper he could not remember if Noble promised the contributions before or after the request to intervene on the tax matter and that his actions were unrelated to the matter.

Jay Orr, deputy district attorney, said his office is reviewing the FPPC complaint to determine if further action is warranted. He told the Press Enterprise in late May that his office is investigating Wintec on an unrelated matter but would not elaborate.

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