Feds seek forfeiture in airport probe

Two trucks owned by former Grand Junction Regional Airport Director of Aviation Rex Tippetts and former airport board chairman Denny Granum, which were seized by the FBI amid a fraud investigation, may soon belong to the federal government.

Jeff Dorschner, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Denver, said Friday the Justice Department “is in the process of notifying” Tippetts and Granum of the government’s intent to pursue a civil forfeiture action for ownership of the seized vehicles. Dorschner said he couldn’t discuss other details of the action.

The government has 60 days from the date of a property seizure to prepare a notice of intent to forfeit, Dorschner said. The owners of the seized property then have another 30 days to contest the action, he said. If there’s no challenge, the property goes to the federal government.

That typically means re-sale of property, with money going to a federal asset forfeiture fund, he said.

The federal announcement was quickly criticized by Tippetts’ representatives.

Stephen Laiche, the Grand Junction attorney who represents the former airport director, said the government has missed a deadline for notice of forfeiture and his law firm was “in the process of demanding return” of Tippetts’ truck.

Denver attorney David Kaplan, who represents Granum, said Saturday he had yet to see any federal notice about forfeiture.

“Our intent is to have it returned,” Kaplan said of the truck.

Court records justifying the seizure of the two trucks in January as part of the airport fraud investigation — an action which was authorized by a federal judge — remain filed under seal. The Daily Sentinel over consecutive days reported on the FBI action, with Granum’s vehicle taken on Jan. 13 and Tippetts’ the next day.

Laiche at the time said Tippetts’ acquisition of the vehicle was aboveboard, adding “he paid over ‘Blue Book’ value for it.”

Granum told the newspaper the Airport Authority sold “a whole fleet of vehicles” to dealerships over a five- or six-year period, adding the airport’s board was aware of his truck purchase. He expressed “total shock” about the Jan. 13 seizure.

Granum resigned from the airport board in early January, several weeks after the board fired Tippetts without explanation. Nobody has been charged in the aftermath of the Nov. 5, 2013, raid by agents of the FBI and U.S. Department of Transportation at the airport’s administrative offices.

Denver FBI spokesman Dave Joly said the investigation is ongoing.


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