The trial of Len Turner and Lance Turner, two well-known Oakland businessmen who own the Turner Construction company, concluded this week in San Francisco.
A jury determined that Lance Turner was not guilty of conspiring to defraud the federal government by rigging the bidding process for a Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory construction contract in 2013. The same jury couldn’t reach a unanimous verdict in his brother’s case, which involved the same construction contract, therefore a mistrial was declared.
See also: Taj Reid Found Guilty of Rigging State Construction Contracts and Accepting Bribes
Len and Lance Turner were indicted in April 2017 along with six other men as part of a sprawling FBI public corruption investigation that began in 2012. Across the Bay, the probe ultimately led to the arrest and prosecution of Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow and Leland Yee, along with the prosecution of several other public officials.
In the East Bay, the feds focused on allegations of corrupt government contracting deals.
The government accused the Turner brothers of helping to rig the bidding process on the LBL project in order to steer the contract to another man who called himself William Joseph.
William Joseph was actually an FBI informant whose real name is William Myles. The FBI paid him an undisclosed sum to work the Bay Area sting operation.
Myles was introduced to the Turners by Taj Reid, the son of Oakland City Council President Larry Reid.
According to court records, in September 2013 Myles laid out a plan to Taj Reid: He claimed to have the inside track on a multimillion-dollar construction project at the Berkeley lab. He told Reid that the man in charge of deciding the contract would award it to his company, but he needed someone else to submit a fake bid at a higher amount to provide cover.
Reid agreed to go along with the scheme. He allegedly acted as the go-between for Myles and the Turners. The government alleged that Reid and Myles eventually convinced the Turners to submit the false bid on the Berkeley lab project in exchange for promises from Myles that he would help the Turners obtain more business in the future.
Earlier this year, Reid was convicted of a similar, but unrelated fraud when a jury found that he took bribes from Myles to help the undercover FBI operative pursue veterans housing contracts in Southern California. After being convicted of this unrelated fraud, Reid then pleaded guilty to conspiring with the Turners to rig the Lawrence Berkeley Lab construction contract.
But despite Reid's apparent guilt and acquiescence to the charge that he conspired with the Turner brothers, the Turners maintained their innocence all along.
Len and Lance Turner contend that the bid they submitted on the Lawrence Berkeley Lab construction contract wasn't phony.
The jury sided with Lance and declined to return a unanimous verdict regarding Len. It's unclear if the government will attempt to retry Len Turner.
Attorneys for Len and Lance Turner didn’t immediately return phone calls today. The U.S. Attorneys Office’s spokesperson did not answer the phone and their voicemail box was full.
But in briefs to the court over the past year, attorneys for Len and Lance Turner wrote that their clients were wrongfully swept up in the corruption probe and entrapped by Myles.
They also claimed that Myles targeted the Turners because they are Black.
In fact, Myles, who is also Black, has a long history as a paid FBI operative of targeting Black politicians and business leaders. He most recently was employed by the FBI to pursue a corruption case against Maryland state Senator Nathaniel Oaks
. He previously helped the FBI go after politicians and business people in Louisiana
, and other states.
As the defense attorneys alleged in a motion submitted to the court last March:
"Mr. Joseph, under that alias and others, has spent the last decade as a well-paid operative of the FBI, earning over a million dollars endeavoring to persuade African Americans, most often public officials, to commit criminal offenses. The tool of his trade is lying, at which he is quite skilled. In addition to false claims of great financial resources and professional achievement, the CHS’s lies often involve heartfelt descriptions of his intention to serve the interests of the local African American community. Sometimes the subjects of the CHS’s inducements are those with a reputation for corruption. But the path to targeting the Turners, individuals with no prior record of dishonesty or misconduct, was random and fortuitous."