Probe targets Airway Heights mayor
FBI and state gambling agents investigating a possible public corruption case served search warrants Wednesday at the home and City Hall office of Airway Heights Mayor Dale R. Perry.
Investigators are probing Perry’s financial or business ties with Orville Moe, the embattled operator of Spokane Raceway Park, according to several sources familiar with the case.
Court documents authorizing the searches remain sealed from public inspection, but an evidence recovery team of FBI agents was seen removing computer and business records from the mayor’s home and office.
No criminal charges have been filed.
Assistant U. S. Attorney Tom Rice said he couldn’t comment on the serving of the search warrants “because it’s an ongoing investigation.”
The federal prosecutor also declined to say how long the investigation has been under way or identify potential targets.
The serving of search warrants to obtain documentation frequently occurs before prosecutors take a case to a federal grand jury, which could return criminal charges if the panel believes adequate evidence exists.
Perry and Airway Heights City Manager Chuck Freeman both declined comment on the unusual event of FBI agents serving a search warrant on a mayor’s home and his governmental office.
“I have no intention of resigning,” the 53-year-old mayor said on the windy front lawn of his home after agents left.
“I didn’t do anything wrong,” Perry said, “but I guess there are people out there who say I did do something wrong.”
Public documents obtained by The Spokesman-Review show Orville Moe and his wife, Deonne, were the source of a $109,000 loan to Dale and Sharon Perry last October.
The loan was secured with a deed of trust to the Perry’s home at 762 S. King St., where the search occurred Wednesday, the public documents show.
Shortly after becoming mayor in January 2002, Perry obtained a loan of approximately $16,000 from Moe, reportedly to cover personal debts, sources said.
It is not clear if the remaining balance of that initial loan was included in the larger loan deal brokered last October, at the same time Oroville Moe was being accused of fraud and misappropriation of funds by limited partners in Washington Motorsports, which owns Spokane Raceway Park.
The limited partners are pushing a lawsuit against Moe, asking a Superior Court judge to appoint a receiver to assume control of the racetrack and its financial holdings. Those hearings are scheduled to resume May 9.
The popular drag strip and oval racetrack complex is within the city limits of Airway Heights.
In recent years, Perry sided with Moe when the mayor opposed extension of a city entertainment tax to tickets sold at Spokane Raceway Park, City Council minutes show.
Perry also backed a plan to extend Airway Heights city water and sewer service to undeveloped parcels of land bordering the city, including several acres owned by Orville Moe not far from the 1-square-mile raceway complex, which adjoins Northern Quest Casino.
The undeveloped land that Moe owns – separate from the raceway holdings – includes two older houses, one of which is being leased or rented to Perry’s adult daughter, sources confirmed.
“Right now, I can’t really say anything,” said Perry, who is employed full time by the Washington State Department of Transportation. As part-time mayor, he is paid $500 a month.
The mayor said he had left home for his state job when his wife called him.
“She said, ‘Right now, there are about 10 FBI agents in our house,’ ” Perry recalled. He immediately returned home.
The mayor confirmed that agents took two computers and business records from his home.
“They turned my house upside down,” Perry said.
Until two weeks ago, he said, he had a computer-equipped office at City Hall, but he gave it up “because I really wasn’t using it that much.”
Perry said he first became aware he was the focus of interest last January when agents with the Washington State Gambling Commission paid him a visit.
“I gave them a statement, but that’s all I’ll say right now,” the mayor said.