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"McCarran Land Deal Investigation Expands"
Monday, February 7, 2005
Airport Land Deals, Sales Under Scrutiny
KLAS-TV Ch 8 (CBS), Las Vegas (NV)
There's new information in the investigation into land sales by McCarran
International Airport. One questionable deal between the airport and a local
real estate broker sparked an in depth local and federal investigation. Now
that investigation has spread to more than just land sales by the airport.
The Clark County investigation has been joined by Metro, the Bureau of Land
Management, and the Office of Inspector General for the Department of the
Interior. They are examining airport land deals, not just sales, involving
land given by the BLM since 1992.
One land sale from McCarran International airport to broker Scott Gragson
sparked the probe. The probe now includes all of the deals by McCarran
dealing with federal land and not just that bought by Gragson.
Clark County Audit Director Jerry Carroll says, "There may be others that we
look at." Carroll heads the investigation. He says the probe centers around
a total of 5,300 acres and well more than 46 deals.
All of it started by the sale of 38 acres at the corner of Durango and
Windmill. The ad said the land could only be used for a cemetery. Gragson
was the only bidder. He quickly sold part to a developer and the rest back
to another Clark County agency -- the fire department for a $5 million
Airport Director Randy Walker maintains they just made a mistake in the ad.
"There was a disconnect between what was in the advertisement and what was
in the deed restriction. Certainly that is a problem."
The deed says a cemetery was one of the possible uses not the only use. The
deed restrictions also allow an office park and golf course. Airport
officials say that any developer could have looked the deed up and seen the
other uses. Other brokers say it was a good deal for Gragson.
As the investigation spreads from that one transaction, the "good" deals
with BLM land may not be limited to just sales. Carroll adds, "There is
leases involved and there might have been some exchanges involved in leases.
We are going to be looking at some of the leases."
Hundreds of thousands of documents that Carroll has started reviewing may
hold the answers.
The investigation will take at least two months. It may be longer depending
on how easy it is to get some title documents.
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