The FBI, working with an Alaska oil contractor, secretly taped telephone calls with Sen. Ted Stevens as part of a public-corruption sting...

WASHINGTON — The FBI, working with an Alaska oil contractor, secretly taped telephone calls with Sen. Ted Stevens as part of a public-corruption sting, sources said.

The recordings suggest the Justice Department was eyeing Stevens, R-Alaska, long before June, when the senator publicly acknowledged he was under scrutiny. At that time, it appeared Stevens was a new focus in a case that had ensnared several state lawmakers.

The recorded calls between Stevens and businessman Bill Allen were confirmed by two people close to the case who spoke on condition of anonymity. They declined to say how many calls were recorded or what was said.

Allen, a wealthy businessman and Stevens’ political patron, agreed to the taping last year after authorities confronted him with evidence he had bribed Alaska lawmakers. He pleaded guilty to bribery and is a key witness against Alaska legislators.

He also has told prosecutors he paid his employees to renovate the senator’s house.

In July, FBI agents raided that house in the Anchorage suburb of Girdwood. Stevens has denied wrongdoing and said he paid every bill he received for the project.

FBI spokesman Richard Kolko said the agency would not discuss the investigation.

Allen is the founder of VECO, an oil-services firm that made nearly $1 billion in annual revenue.