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Alaska Tells Feds to Stand Aside in Probe

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (CN) - Alaska Attorney General Craig Richards and U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan demanded the Justice Department allow them to investigate allegations of sex crimes by the former chief of an oil field services company.

The Feb. 5 announcement by Richards and Sullivan represents another chapter in the decade-long saga involving oil executives and a United States senator, corruption in Alaska state government and sexual misconduct with minors. Richards and Sullivan said they are again targeting former Veco head Bill Allen.

Allen, now 80, was the head of oil field services company Veco before becoming the federal government's star witness in multiple highly publicized corruption cases where he admitted to offering cash and other bribes to lawmakers involved in a potential rewrite of Alaska's oil tax laws.

One of the highest profile cases involved now-deceased U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, who was found guilty of ethics violations in 2008 - many involving favors from his friend Allen.

According to court records, Allen agreed to cooperate with investigators in 2006 after the FBI showed him the evidence compiled against him. For the next eight months, Allen wore a wire to assist in gathering evidence and in the end served an eight-month prison sentence and three years of supervised release between 2010 and 2014.

But claims surfaced that Allen had a long history of paying for sex with minors during the trials of Stevens and others.

More than one woman came forward with allegations of Allen's penchant dating back to the late 1990s. One of the women claimed he flew her from Seattle to Alaska for ongoing paid trysts while she was temporarily living out of state.

Sullivan, Alaska's attorney general at the time of the Stevens trial, tried to investigate the women's claims but was rebuffed without sufficient explanation by the U.S. Department of Justice, according to the joint statement on Friday by Sullivan and Richards.

At the time, some speculated on an implied immunity deal between the Justice Department and Allen. Others thought federal authorities were willing to quash any investigation into Allen's sex crimes while he was their prime witness.

The state's Department of Law investigated the allegations against Allen and requested it be cross-designated to bring federal charges against him for allegedly transporting minors across state lines for purposes of sex. The Justice Department declined without a complete explanation.

"For years, whether in editorials or letters, our state attorneys general and our senior U.S. Senator [Murkowski] have been asking the Department of Justice the same questions: Why did you not prosecute Bill Allen for alleged sexual abuse of children, and why at a minimum did you not grant the state authority to do so when the case surrounding these crimes seemed strong?" Sullivan said.

Shortly after Sullivan was elected to the U.S. Senate he asked U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch to provide a detailed explanation. Lynch responded months later with a reply that Sullivan said was inadequate.

"If the government made a deal with Bill Allen, it would constitute a scandal of the highest order and those who decided that prosecuting Sen. Stevens was a higher priority than seeking justice for abused children should be exposed," Sullivan said.

This frustration prompted Sullivan to spearhead passage of congressional legislation requiring the Justice Department to either allow state and local prosecutors to pursue their own federal cases under an updated version of the interstate sex-trafficking law, the Mann Act, or give a detailed explanation of why such a prosecution would "undermine the administration of justice."

President Barack Obama signed Sullivan's amendment of the Mann Act - which makes it a felony to bring someone across state lines for prostitution and imposes enhanced penalties when the victim is a minor - in May 2015.

"For seven years, the Department of Justice has brushed off directly answering these questions. That ends today. Because of the new law, the Department of Justice is now required to directly answer these questions to Attorney General Richards," Sullivan said.

At the press conference, Richards said that the state of Alaska will seek authority to prosecute under the Mann Act.

"The Alaska AG is seeking this authority so the Alaska Department of Law may evaluate whether to file charges against Bill Allen, the federal government's main witness in the 2008 case against the late Sen. Ted Stevens," Richards said.

Richards said he has sent a letter to Lynch requesting that the state be cross-designated to pursue an investigation and potential prosecution of Allen on alleged Mann Act violations.

"Today I wrote the U.S. Attorney General that I'm not aware of any reason that this request could undermine the administration of justice," Richards said. "In fact, it would do the opposite. Allegations of Mr. Allen's misconduct remain an open and disturbing issue for our state."

Richards' letter also touches on that issue. If the Justice Department refuses to cross-designate the state, "I would ask that the explanation for any denial answer the question of whether the department's decision is, in any way, based on a suggestion or assurance (whether expressed or implied) by any federal official to not prosecute Mr. Allen in order to secure his cooperation in the case brought against the senator [Stevens]," Richards wrote.

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski also spent years trying to get answers from the Justice Department and co-sponsored the Mann Act amendment with Sullivan and two other senators.

"I commend Sen. Sullivan and Attorney General Richards for their commitment to hold Bill Allen accountable for his actions," Murkowski said. "Thanks to Sen. Sullivan's legislation, the state of Alaska can now seek justice in this case."

Less than a year after Stevens was found guilty, all charges against him were dismissed. It was disclosed that numerous instances of prosecutorial misconduct had occurred.

Stevens had been the longest serving Republican senator in U.S. history, representing Alaska from Dec. 24, 1968 until Jan. 3, 2009, when voters replaced him with Democrat Mark Begich eight days after his conviction. Sullivan replaced Begich in 2015.

Stevens was killed in a plane crash in 2010.

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