RENO (AP) — A parade of witnesses appearing before a federal grand jury in Reno on Wednesday included a married couple who contributed money to Sen. Harry Reid’s campaign and have ties to the Nevada developer whose role in the campaign fundraising is reportedly under investigation by the FBI.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Myhre questioned at least a dozen witnesses behind closed doors but refused to discuss the target of the grand jury because the proceedings are secret.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported earlier that Myhre’s name was on subpoenas served to family members and employees of developer Harvey Whittemore.
The FBI has been investigating campaign contributions tied to the once powerful Nevada lobbyist, lawyer and land developer, according to a person with knowledge of the case who confirmed the investigation for The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to talk about it publicly.
Witnesses called Wednesday included J.L. “Skylo” Dangler, former president of real estate for Wingfield Springs Realty in Spanish Springs, and his wife, Cathy, a special events promoter.
The realty firm is among several in a holding company that Whittemore previously owned in a partnership with California homebuilders Tom Seeno and his brother, Albert Seeno Jr.
Federal Election Commission records show the Danglers were among a group of dozens of Whittemore family members and employees who combined to contribute nearly $150,000 to Reid’s campaign on a single day in 2007. Like most of the contributors on that March 31st, the Danglers each donated $4,600 — the maximum amount allowed for a primary and general election cycle.
At issue is whether employees of Whittemore’s former company and its subsidiaries contributed to political campaigns and were then illegally reimbursed with company money, according to Review-Journal reports that relied on anonymous sources.
Cathy Dangler, who arrived at the courthouse with her lawyer Doug Fermoile, told the Reno Gazette-Journal she received a subpoena from the FBI but did not know why.
“I still don’t know what this is about,” she said.
Skylo Dangler, who now sells commercial property for the Johnson Group in Reno, did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment on Wednesday. He had worked as president of the real estate division of Coyote Springs, another development Whittemore owned about 60 miles north of Las Vegas.
Elizabeth Trosper, a spokeswoman for Whittemore, his defense lawyer Dominic Gentile and his law firm, Gordon Silver, declined immediate comment. Most of the witnesses declined to comment or provide their name on the way out of the grand jury room.
“My name doesn’t have anything to do with the proceedings,” one female witness told AP.
The grand jury wrapped up at 5 p.m. Myhre refused to say if they had completed their work or whether they might continue on Thursday, or at some later time.
Whittemore and the Seenos, owners of Seeno Homes, were partners with Whittemore in Wingfield Nevada Group Holding Co. from 2004 until the relationship imploded in 2010.
The Seenos also hold Nevada gambling licenses and are part owners of six casino properties, including the Peppermill in Reno. They are now in a legal battle with Whittemore that includes suits and countersuits in both state and federal court.
The Seenos, in their civil lawsuit filed Jan. 27 in Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, accuse Whittemore of bilking them out of tens of millions of dollars and using Wingfield assets to finance lavish lifestyles; buy homes; subsidize a research facility at the University of Nevada, Reno; even sponsor a pro golfer.
Whittemore and his wife, Annette, in turn filed suit against the Seeno brothers and Albert Seeno III in U.S. District Court in Reno. They accuse the Seenos of making death threats against their family; having ties to the Hells Angels motorcycle gang and convicted felons; and forcing them through intimidation to turn over homes, cars, jewelry, money — even a Steinway piano.