Whittemore reports to prison on California coast

RENO, Nev. — Former Nevada lobbyist and developer Harvey Whittemore surrendered to a minimum-security prison on the central California coast Wednesday to begin serving a two-year sentence for making illegal campaign contributions as his lawyers prepare to argue his case before a federal appeals court.

Whittemore, 61, reported just after 10 a.m. at the minimum security work camp at the federal prison complex in Lompoc, California, just north of Santa Barbara, U.S. Bureau of Prisons spokesman Chris Burke said.

The complex is home to mostly white-collar criminals, including former Wall Street investors, convicted spies and ex-San Francisco Bay Area radio talk show host Bernie Ward, who is scheduled to be released in December after serving seven years on child pornography charges.

Whittemore was convicted last year of violating campaign-spending laws by using family and employees of his billion-dollar real estate company to funnel more than $130,000 to Sen. Harry Reid’s re-election committee in 2007. His lawyers are scheduled to make oral arguments Oct. 6 before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

The Lompoc camp with about 470 inmates is part of a larger complex that includes about 1,500 inmates at a neighboring medium-security prison near Vandenberg Air Force Base. The work camp has dormitory housing and no perimeter fencing.

Former Clark County Commissioner Lance Malone was released from the facility in 2011 after serving a six-year sentence for funneling bribes to former colleagues on behalf of a Las Vegas strip club owner in a federal probe dubbed “Operation G-String.”

According to the Bureau of Prisons, other inmates at the complex include:

— Steven Martinez, a former IRS agent convicted in San Diego in 2012 on charges of defrauding clients of more than $11 million and then plotting their murders to keep them from testifying against him. He’s scheduled to be released in 2032.

— Chi Mak, a Chinese-born engineer convicted in 2008 of conspiracy to export U.S. defense technology to China. He is scheduled to be released in 2027.

— Charles G. Martin, a former principal for the Chicago-based One World Capital Group LLC, convicted in 2012 of orchestrating a Ponzi scheme to defraud investors out of nearly $17 million. His scheduled release date is in 2026.

— Henry Jones, a former California record producer serving a 20-year sentence for mail, wire and securities fraud. He is set to be released in 2025.

According to the prison’s handbook, all medically cleared inmates have regular job assignments, which could include work in food service, a maintenance shop or a factory operated by Federal Prison Industries.

It’s unclear if that will include Whittemore. He originally requested to be sentenced to a low-security facility at Herlong, California, but his lawyers later said he couldn’t be accommodated there because of his health problems, which include diabetes and heart disease.

Last week, U.S. District Judge Larry Hicks refused Whittemore’s request to remain out of prison pending his appeal after deciding his conviction is unlikely to be overturned.

Prosecutors say Whittemore tried to skirt contribution limits by writing checks for $133,000 to family and employees who the government called “straw donors,” who would simply hand over the money to Reid’s re-election campaign. Reid was not accused of any wrongdoing, although he had to amend his 2007 report to the Federal Election Commission.

His lawyers are scheduled to make oral arguments for his appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco on Oct. 6.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment