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Bad secrets of the private eyes8/11/2010
Some are ex-cops. Some are ex-cons. Some are preachers. Some are porn stars. Some are sane; some are raging lunatics. These are the ‘private eyes,’ the stuff of legend and Hollywood hype; gumshoes for hire that will do just about anything, at any time, at any place, for any client, if the price is right. For the last half of the 20th Century they have practiced their steamy craft with impunity, committing outrage after crime after insult to humanity.
With permission Vanity Fair Magazine c 2010.
Some are ex-cops. Some are ex-cons. Some are preachers. Some are porn stars. Some are sane; some are raging lunatics. These are the ‘private eyes,’ the stuff of legend and Hollywood hype; gumshoes for hire that will do just about anything, at any time, at any place, for any client, if the price is right. For the last half of the 20th Century they have practiced their steamy craft with impunity, committing outrage after crime after insult to humanity.
And then, one day, at long last, the long arm of the law finally caught up with this profession, and the dirty little secrets of this sleazy business finally began to be exposed. Emerging as the ‘poster boy’ for the Sins of this profession is Chicago-bred private eye Anthony Pellicano. When, in 2002, the Feds raided Pellicano’s Sunset Boulevard office, Pellicano was found to be in the possession of C-4 plastic explosives as well as hand grenades, weapons Pellicano allegedly plotted to use to blow up the automobile of Los Angeles Times reporter Anita Busch, who was writing about some of Pellicano’s clients. While Pellicano was in prison on the weapons charges, he was hit by State charges involving the plot against Ms. Busch, who has filed a civil suit against Pellicano. The self-described "private eye to the stars" has also been charged by the Feds, along with two crooked cops, among others, with taking part in a ‘racketeering enterprise’ that illegally wiretapped numerous individuals, including Pellicano’s own client Sylvester Stallone and more than one news reporter. Pellicano is currently being held without Bail on the 110 count indictment, to which he has pleaded ‘not guilty’ to all charges.
Diane Dimond is just one of many reporters who have experienced in past years what they correctly perceived were intimidation tactics against them by private investigators, yet were hesitant to go public with such allegations, fearing they would be dismissed as irrational and paranoid. Now, all these years later, evidence has emerged to prove that such reporters were not ‘crazy,’ but in fact had their telephones tapped, their computers compromised, and were followed by private investigators. The new evidence in the case of Anthony Pellicano has opened a new door on the practices of private investigators that are so bizarre, so outrageous, that they defy belief.
Here, at long last, are the dirty little ‘secrets of the private eyes.’
CLIENTSA successful private investigator once told the Media that most clients of gumshoes are either "rich or crazy," and in some cases, both. While there is the expectation that the relationship between a private eye and his client will remain "private," when a client is someone who is rich or famous, almost inevitably that person’s celebrity status will result in word leaking out about the client’s use of private investigators. Incredibly, some States do not even require professional standards of which a person must meet in order to become a ‘legal’ private investigator. Thus, when someone hires a ‘private eye,’ that investigator may be a person who has very low - if any - ethical standards, a recipe that can make for personal disaster - if not indictment.
In recent years, it has become public that some of the richest men in the world, including Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, CEO of the software giant Oracle, H. Ross Perot, and Kirk Kerkorian, either utilized the services of private eyes or were themselves the targets of such investigators. Likewise, some of the biggest celebrities in the Entertainment business fall into this category, including Tom Cruise, Chris Rock, Mike Myers, Rosanne Barr, Dominick Dunne, James Woods, Robert Blake, Michael Jackson, Kevin Costner, Farah Fawcett, Priscilla Presley, Sylvester Stallone, Eddie Murphy, Elizabeth Taylor, Jean Claude Van Damme, Steven Seagal, and the late George Harrison.
For over a Century politicians have utilized the services of private investigators to dig up dirt on those they perceive to be their political enemies. The use of private eyes by politician H. Ross Perot is noted below in this report in regards to Perot’s various conspiracy theories. Sometimes a politician will hire a private eye to dig up dirt on themselves. Such a bizarre scenario was the case in 2001, when Hollywood action star Arnold Schwarzenegger hired Anthony Pellicano to investigate himself. The world’s most famous movie star was concerned over what he viewed as his penchant to play practical jokes with those on the set of his movies, as well as engage in spontaneous and provocative horseplay. Were there, Schwarzenegger wondered, one or more females who may have misinterpreted his playful and boisterous behavior as sexual harassment, and would they reveal such allegations to the Media if ever Schwarzenegger decided to run for public office?
That was the challenge presented to Pellicano, who then farmed-out the job to one of his employees, porn actor/director Paul Barresi, who came back with a detailed report naming several women who might claim Schwarzenegger had stepped over the line with them on the sets of his movies. Schwarzenegger reportedly decided not to run for Governor of California based on this report, but later changed his mind when a Recall effort against Governor Grey Davis presented a rare political opportunity. As the allegations of sexual harassment started to make their way into the Media, candidate Schwarzenegger was prepared to make his public apology to any women he may have offended. Thus, the reports had little political ramifications and Schwarzenegger was easily elected Governor.
Other politicians who reportedly have utilized the services of private investigators include the Kennedy family and the Clintons. Also, private investigators will take on as clients some of the most notorious accused criminals of our time, including those accused of rape, murder, drug trafficking, and participating in organized crime syndicates.
IMPERSONATIONPrivate eyes frequently misrepresent themselves as someone else, usually members of a law enforcement organization, even though this is against the law, in order to obtain information for their clients. For some, such as former police officers or retired FBI agents, such impersonation comes easily. Only rarely does a private eye get caught and punished for committing this crime. In December 1998, the New York State Department of State revoked the license of a private investigator whom it was found had a previous felony conviction for impersonating a Deputy U. S. Marshall, thus allowing him to board a U. S. airliner in the possession of a firearm.
Some private investigators resort to impersonating others in a practice called "pretexting," in which a private eye will contact a bank, phone company, Internet information broker, or other business, falsely claiming to be the person whose confidential information is being sought. Criminals involved in the growing crime of identity theft also resort to "pretexting" in order to commit their fraud.
Millions of Americans have become addicted to their cell phone in recent years, but what many do not know is that when they use their cell phone, they leave an electronic record that can be used to pinpoint their location, as well as identify whom they contact. While this is of little concern to most, those Americans who are hiding from abusive spouses - or members of organized crime - can easily be located by whoever hires such a private investigator willing to engage in "pretexting." Law enforcement has been slow to identify and stop this growing phenomenon. One of the first actions taken was by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation in 1999. The Bureau had discovered, in co-operation with the Los Angeles Police Department, that a Colorado private investigator, James Rapp, a convicted felon, had provided information to a Los Angeles private eye that resulted in confidential information regarding the private residences of organized crime detectives winding up in the possession of an alleged organized crime figure. Information obtained by Rapp also made it’s way to the national tabloids Globe Magazine and the National Enquirer. After a sting operation was run in Colorado, Rapp was slapped with a $200,000 fine and given a prison sentence for racketeering. Rapp was not charged in the Los Angeles case. Colorado is among those States that do not require licensing for private investigators.
In March, 2006 the telecommunications giant Sprint Nextel filed a lawsuit against the Florida private investigation firm San Marco & Associates. The lawsuit alleges that the firm has violated the privacy rights of Sprint Nextel customers by obtaining information about clients through pretexting, some of which is brokered to Internet private investigation websites. Verizon and A T & T have also taken similar steps against private investigative firms to protect the privacy of their clients. As incredible as it may seem, "pretexting" is not a crime in many States. U. S. Senators Richard Durbin, Arlen Specter, Charles Schumer, and Bill Nelson, along with Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, have recently proposed legislation that would impose federal prison sentences and fines for those who engage in pretexting.
SMEAR CAMPAIGNSSome private investigators routinely engage in ‘smear campaigns’ to discredit the perceived enemies of their clients, whether those persons are family members or spouses of a client, business associates, witnesses in a civil or criminal proceeding, or members of law enforcement, including State and Federal Prosecutors. Private eyes have been known in recent years to approach a neighbor or business associate of someone they are trying to discredit, falsely representing themselves as an FBI agent or other member of law enforcement. This ruse frequently goes unchallenged by the person they scam, as most Americans believe that no one would have the audacity to go around flashing false law enforcement credentials, an act that is a Federal crime. Private eyes who participate in this scam usually work in pairs, as the public perception, reinforced by television crime programs, is that members of law enforcement do not usually work alone in their investigations, but rather as a two-man team. The unwitting accomplices of this scam are usually told that the ‘person of interest’ is a suspected criminal, and are asked to provide any negative information they may have to a ‘special phone number’ provided. That phone number is often just another phone line in a private investigator’s office, set up specifically for the purpose of discrediting the target of the private eye.
What a person is falsely told about a ‘suspect’ usually depends on what relationship that person has to the victim. The manager of a grocery store where the targeted individual frequently shops is likely to be told that the person is a known shoplifter, thus they should keep an eye on the suspect whenever they are seen shopping; a clerk in a liquor store may be told the ‘person of interest’ is an alcoholic who beats their children and/or spouse; a neighbor is likely to be told the person is some sort of sex pervert; a prospective business partner or client may be told that the person is an associate of organized crime figures. If a targeted man buys flowers on occasion from a local florist for his wife, that flower vendor might get a visit from two "agents" who confide the man is a suspect in the murder of a young woman. Thus, if the florist wants to do his Patriotic duty, he should inform them of the name and address of any woman the ‘suspect’ has flowers delivered to so that woman can be warned of the ‘danger’ she is in. In this ruse, of course, the person in question is not a murderer; what the private eyes hope to discover is if the man has a girlfriend on the side, information they can use to their advantage, perhaps even enlisting the co-operation of the cheating man’s wife.
Particularly vulnerable to such scams are ‘average, ordinary people' who may have boring jobs and unexciting lives, who quickly get hooked by the thrill of participating in what they believe is a sensitive investigation of a "dangerous criminal." Thus, some unwitting dupes of this scam will report information about the targeted victim back to the private eyes, some of which may be accurate, some completely false, and some exaggerated. Sometimes, even a news reporter will fall for this scam, although usually the private eyes will be smart enough not to pose as current law enforcement officials, but rather as those assisting an "on-going law enforcement inquiry," forwarding to the reporter all sorts of "confidential information" about the person of interest. Indictments against the "bad guy," the private eyes insist, are just a matter of time.
Such smear campaigns by private investigators have been going on for decades. One classic textbook case was that perpetrated by private investigators working for the General Motors corporation in the 1960s against consumer advocate Ralph Nader. General Motors had learned that Nader was about to publish a book, UNSAFE AT ANY SPEED: THE DESIGNED-IN DANGERS OF THE AMERICAN AUTOMOBILE, which detailed evidence that many U. S. cars, most notably the popular General Motors ‘Corvair,’ had inherent flaws which threatened the public safety. General Motors hired private investigators who tapped Nader's phone, made intimidating phone calls to him, and put him under surveillance. Private eyes approached acquaintences of Nader's, falsely pretending to be employees of a company Nader had allegedly applied to for employment, and thus the men were conducting "pre-employment background investigations." Nader's friends were asked questions about Nader's political views and sex life, in a transparent attempt to uncover negative information about him. As is sometimes the case, the smear campaign backfired, resulting in a backlash of publicity for Nader which helped propell Nader's book into a best-seller. The resultant publicity also forced Congress to regulate safety in the automobile industry. Nader sued General Motors for invasion of privacy and eventually received a public apology from General Motors as well as a substantial cash settlement.
GARBAGE THEFT (DUMPSTER DIVING)Among the many methods of the private eyes in accumulating information, stealing one’s garbage is a time-honored practice, also utilized by investigative reporters, members of law enforcement, and labor Union organizers. Most people give little thought as to what they place in their garbage cans or bags, but such garbage can offer a window as to what is going on inside a person’s home or business. Empty prescription drug bottles, for example, can reveal a person’s medical condition. Empty liquor bottles might indicate that someone has a drinking problem. Before the problem of identity theft became a national problem, many people would simply throw credit card bills and banking records in the trash, unwittingly providing a wealth of information to anyone willing to don disposable gloves and resort to "Dumpster Diving."
One of the more celebrated cases of "Dumpster Diving" was reported by the Wall Street Journal in 2000, involving the world’s two richest men, bitter billionaire rivals Larry Ellison of Oracle and Bill Gates of Microsoft. The WSJ reported that Ellison had hired private eyes from the firm Investigative Group International to steal the garbage of organizations that were defending Microsoft in an antitrust lawsuit. Gleeful business reporters, usually reserved to reporting on what is often boring and mundane business stories, quickly seized on the ‘down and dirty’ "GarbageGate" tactics of Ellison, who was unapologetic.
Another infamous case of dumpster diving involves the saga of determining the paternity of a child born to a woman who was briefly married to Hollywood billionaire Kirk Kerkorian. Beverly Hills lawyer Terry Christensen has been indicted for allegedly paying more than $100,000 to Anthony Pellicano to illegally wiretap the phones of Lisa Bonder Kerkorian, who was a world-ranked tennis player until her retirement in 1991. Several years later, the 33-year-old Ms. Bonder became pregnant after allegedly participating in some ‘singles’ play with 81-year-old Kerkorian. The billionaire, who made his fortune as a Las Vegas, Hollywood, and auto manufacturer’s mogul, agreed to marry Bonder for one month in 1999, in order to make her newborn child legitimate. However, Bonder-Kerkorian then allegedly began to make onerous financial demands on Kerkorian, who then turned to his attorney Christensen for help, claiming his former wife must have been involved in some ‘doubles’ play given that he was sterile. Hollywood film producer Steve Bing would later sue Kerkorian for invasion of privacy, claiming Kerkorian’s private eye Stephen Scholl resorted to some ‘dumpster diving’ of Bing’s trash which uncovered a used piece of dental floss containing DNA that proved Bing was the child’s father. Bing, who is best known for his motion picture GET CARTER starring Sylvester Stallone, was also proved through DNA analysis to be the father of a child born to his former friend actress Elizabeth Hurley. Christensen, a former Marine Corps Prosecutor, has pleaded not guilty to the current charges.
BREAKING AND ENTERINGOne of the staples of obtaining information in the private eye profession is also against the law; breaking and entering, a crime often committed with the help of professional locksmiths. This practice was a routine event depicted each week in the private eye TV classic ‘Mannix,’ (1967-75), with the show’s attitude reflecting society’s view of such criminal activity as being the moral equivalent of jaywalking. With prosecution of such a crime almost unheard of, many private investigators will openly admit that this is a common procedure that many private eyes resort to.
WIRETAPPINGIn the current Federal indictments, Anthony Pellicano is charged with numerous counts of illegally wiretapping the phones of a variety of people, some of whom are celebrities and even his own clients. Pellicano accomplished this with the help of two crooked cops, a corrupt employee of a phone company, and a computer software expert, the Feds in Hollywood allege.
Allegations of such methods are nothing new. One of the early pioneers in the history of electronic eavesdropping was Frank Chin, a Chinese national who immigrated to New York City in the 1960s. Chin’s story is one that tells of the growing use of electronic eavesdropping devices during the era of the evolution from the radio tube to the transistor and then to the microchip from the 1950s into the 1990s. Back in the 1960s, Chin was among the "Flower Children" who would ‘turn on, tune in, and drop out’ as part of the drug counter-culture of that era. Once busted on drug charges, Chin opted, instead of prison, to become an FBI Informant.
One of Chin’s first customers was a prostitute, Xavier Hollander, who had Chin install bugs in her bordello in Manhattan in order to document the comings and goings of her clientele, some of whom were important men in New York. Hollander then compiled this information in her 1972 best-seller THE HAPPY HOOKER. Time Magazine would later report that Chin was the person who sold to the Watergate burglars the electronic eavesdropping equipment they had in their possession when arrested in the "third-rate burglary" that eventually led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon.
As Chin’s reputation as a bugman grew, so did the interest of members of the American Mafia. It was Chin’s association with a crooked New Jersey cop, George Weingarten, and Weingarten’s Mafia associates, including John DiGilio, an Associate of the Genovese Mafia Family, that would lead to his downfall. DiGilio, Weingarten, and their associates, working with corrupt private investigators, purchased from Chin their own eavesdropping ‘bugs’ in a bizarre plot to derail surveillance of their own crooked businesses already wiretapped by the Feds. This was one of the first cases in what would become a trend by members of the Mafia, working with crooked private eyes and criminal lawyers, to utilize existing statutes, emerging technology, and ‘dirty tricks’ in order to thwart efforts by law enforcement to bring down a ‘racketeering enterprise.’ In this case, however, the plot unraveled, and DiGilio’s bullet-riddled body would eventually be found floating in the Hackensack River. Officer Weingarten would later be indicted on racketeering and murder charges but chose during trial to kill himself, leaving behind a landmark videotaped ‘suicide note,’ in which the cynical cop encouraged those cops who found his body to gorge themselves on doughnuts as they watched the video of his last defiant and unlawful act.
Frank Chin’s identity as an FBI Informant was discovered by Mafia figures through their corruption of FBI personnel, the result being that Chin was murdered in the garage of his parking lot in Manhattan in 1977. Evidence pointing to DiGilio would emerge when mobster Jimmy "The Weasel" Fratianno ‘flipped’ and wore a wire on James Licavoli, then the Godfather of the Cleveland Mafia Family. On the tapes, Licavoli bragged that the Family had a mole in the Cleveland office of the FBI who had provided information leading to the names of two FBI Informants, Tony Hughes and Curly Montana. Licavoli was trying to find out the names of two other FBI Informants in Cleveland, not knowing at that time that Fratianno was one of them. Licavoli then mentioned that John DiGilio had a similar mole in the FBI office in Newark, New Jersey, who had smuggled information identifying two FBI Informants for that office. Both men, one of whom was Frank Chin, were murdered.
Licavoli and all the top-ranking members of the Cleveland Mafia Family would eventually be brought down because of a decision they made in 1977 to murder Danny Greene, a member of the rival Irish Mob, who was encroaching on their rackets. What Godfather Licavoli did not know was that Danny Greene, like Frank Chin, was also an FBI Informant. To rub out Danny Greene, the Cleveland Mafia family utilized the services of a crooked private eye, who tapped Greene’s telephone with the help of a corrupt phone company employee. Those taps revealed that Greene had an upcoming appointment with a Dentist in the Cleveland suburb of Lyndhurst. Watching Greene as he parked his car outside the Dentist’s office, the Cleveland Mafia Family parked next to Greene’s a ‘bomb-car’ which could be set off by an electronic remote control device. When Greene later appeared and stepped into his car, two Mafia hitmen detonated the bomb car adjacent which blew Danny Greene’s body into pieces. This story is the subject of the upcoming motion picture based on Rick Porrello’s true-crime book TO KILL THE IRISHMAN.
A more recent case of wiretapping was revealed in November, 2003, when authorities raided the Beverly Hills office of private investigator Bradley Miller, who worked for embattled pop icon Michael Jackson. Among the confiscated items were videotapes of secret surveillance by Jackson’s employees of the family of the young boy who would later accuse Jackson of molestation, in addition to an illegally recorded phone conversation between the boy’s mother and Frank Cascio, a Jackson employee. California authorities would later raid the home of Jackson aide Marc Schaffel, a producer of gay pornography hired by Jackson to film his music video "What More Can I Give?" That music video was never released by Sony Music Entertainment, prompting Jackson, at a Manhattan press conference hosted by Al Sharpton, to accuse Sony President Tommy Mottola of being a racist. Marc Schaffel later sued Michael Jackson for breach of contract. While much of the evidence noted herein was placed "Under Seal," the acclaimed website THE SMOKING GUN was able to obtain most of that evidence through it’s exercise of the Freedom of Information Act.
COMPUTER TECHNOLOGYPrivate eyes have utilized emerging computer technology to achieve their often-criminal agenda. Once again, the matter of Anthony Pellicano is a textbook case. When Pellicano’s office was raided by the Feds in 2002, it was discovered that Pellicano had utilized sophisticated technology to commit wiretapping, including a computer software program that facilitated such eavesdropping, and an encryption program that stored literally thousands of conversations on computers.
A person or persons unknown was able to hack and destroy Los Angeles Times reporter Anita Busch’s computer while Busch was pursuing her story on Steven Seagal and the Mob back in 2002. Seagal was never charged with a crime but did testify as a Prosecution Witness against members of the Gambino Family who plotted to extort money from the Hollywood action star.
With the promise and innovation of the Internet has also come the ability of private eyes - and ordinary citizens - to utilize on-line tools, resources, and websites to quickly perform functions traditionally handled by private investigators; missing persons searches, criminal background checks, banking and credit histories, and even website searches to see if someone’s lover is cheating on-line. Also available on-line are books and websites devoted to teaching the tools of hacking into the computer of a person or a business. Law enforcement and lawmakers have been slow to respond to the growing threat of Internet snooping, legal or otherwise.
BRIBERYIn 2001, the U. S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles indicted a veteran agent of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Emilio Calatayud, on bribery charges, alleging the agent utilized government databases, including the FBI’s National Crime Information Center, to obtain sensitive information on private citizens, which the agent then sold to a California private eye firm hired by a variety of insurance companies to scrutinize Workers’ compensation claims. Just as criminal proceedings were to begin, Agent Calatayud fled to Mexico, where he was later arrested and returned to the United States. Agent Calatayud pled guilty in 2002 and was sentenced to 27 months in prison.
A similar case of information peddling also occurred in 2001, when the Feds arrested Las Vegas private investigator Michael Levin, a retired FBI agent, outside his home on Long Island, New York. Levin began cooperating immediately and told the Feds he specialized in selling secret law-enforcement information to three types of clients; Mafia associates, white-collar fraud scam artists, and ethnic organized crime syndicates involved in the smuggling of humans into the United States. Also arrested was New York businessman Robert Potter, who would later plead guilty to conspiracy to receive stolen FBI records, as did his lawyer, Herbert Jacobi.
Las Vegas private investigator Stephen Caracappa was convicted this year, along with his ‘Partner in Crime’ Lou Eppolito on charges including bribery, as well as several counts of assisting former Luchese Mafia Family Underboss Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso murder rival mobsters.
Also, among the charges in the 110 Count indictment against private eye Anthony Pellicano and his associates are those alleging bribery.
WITNESS TAMPERINGPrivate investigators have a demonstrated history of tampering with witnesses in criminal or civil cases. Sam Rovetuso was a Chicago-area private investigator who was convicted for conspiring to murder a witness in a Federal case involving a contract scam between a private firm and the City of Chicago. Once convicted, the duplicitous Rovetuso played his ‘trump card’ by becoming an FBI Informant. After spending just 2 years in prison, in 1995 Rovetuso continued practicing as a private investigator in the Chicago area without a license. Wired by the Feds, Rovetuso secretly tape-recorded public officials in Cicero, Illinois involved in a kickback and bribery scheme. Although Rovetuso died in 1999, his tapes resulted in the conviction of Cicero’s former police chief and two associates in 2002.
During the 1990s along the Eastern Seaboard came a case of witness tampering that shocked those reporters who witnessed this criminal event. The case involved the kingpin of a drug trafficking syndicate who was facing charges that could send him away for most of his life. All of the kingpin’s underlings had either been murdered, died of a drug overdose, or pleaded guilty. The drug dealer was not an associate of the American Mafia, but he wisely hired as his criminal attorney a lawyer who has made his career defending members of the Mafia. The lawyer had at his disposal a private investigator who had a felony conviction for witness tampering in a Mafia case.
One of those who pleaded guilty in exchange for leniency was a young girlfriend of the drug dealer. However, on the day she entered the Courtroom to testify against her former boyfriend, something odd occurred; the girlfriend entered the Courtroom in the company of her attorney, one of the most notorious Mafia lawyers in the country. The lawyer then hugged his life-long friend and associate, the Mobbed-up attorney for the Defendant. To all the Prosecutors and the reporters in the Courtroom, it was obvious that "the fix was in."
On the Witness stand the former girlfriend suddenly developed ‘amnesia’ in regards to every allegation she told the Prosecutors when she accepted their plea bargain agreement. The Prosecutors were visibly furious and asked their witness if she feared for her safety by testifying against the Defendant. The witness was excused and the young woman slowly walked into the spectator’s area where her lawyer escorted her outside, all the while giving a smiling and knowing glance back to his friend, the Defendant’s criminal attorney. The accused drug dealer was acquitted.
THE O. P. R. SCAMOne of the newer tactics in the arsenal of corrupt private eyes is the filing of fraudulent charges with the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility, located in Washington, D. C. This office conducts investigations of allegations of misconduct against Federal agents, and by statute must investigate any claim forwarded to that office, regardless how outrageous or unsubstantiated the claim may be. In recent years private investigators working for criminal attorneys have utilized the ‘O. P. R. scam’ to the advantage of their criminal clients. One of the first involved the filing of a completely false complaint with OPR regarding the conduct of an agent of the Internal Revenue Service involved in a drug trafficking investigation. The complaint was filed by the criminal lawyer for an accused drug dealer, and the lawyer’s private eye then shopped the story around with select members of the Media. The private eye also tampered with several witnesses in the case. After a trial, the Defendant was acquitted. OPR’s investigation eventually determined that the allegations against the IRS agent were false, but the allegations had the desired effect of calling into question the integrity of the government’s case against the accused drug dealer.
A similar case also occurred in recent years in U. S. Federal Court. Once again, a Defendant faced drug trafficking charges and hired a lawyer who had made a career of defending members of the American Mafia. By the time the accused drug dealer went to trial, a criminal informant involved in the case had ingratiated himself with the Defense team, alleging that he had had a sexual relationship with a member of the Prosecution team. The story was then leaked to sympathetic members of the Media, much to the embarrassment of the Prosecutor, who was married and a family man. Another criminal in communication with the accused drug dealer’s Defense team made startling allegations of unethical and illegal conduct against federal agents involved in the Prosecution case. Prosecutors were furious, given that the unsubstantiated allegations being made by the two criminals was in the furtherance of what the Feds claimed was a ‘racketeering enterprise.’ During trial, clear evidence of the tampering of Prosecution witnesses emerged. Also during trial, evidence was presented that the accused drug dealer had bribed some corrupt members of law enforcement. The accused drug dealer was acquitted of all charges and then later bribed his way out of other charges in another jurisdiction before being deported to his country of origin. After a lengthy investigation, OPR determined that the three Federal law enforcement officials in this case had each been falsely accused.
INTIMIDATION OF JOURNALISTSSome private eyes will resort to just about any tactic in order to manipulate the Media for their clients, including the offer to ‘trade’ information to reporters on a celebrity, even one of their own clients, in order to coerce a publication to not publish information about another client. Such practices were revealed in 2004 by CBS2 News in Los Angeles, which had obtained secretly-recorded conversations between Anthony Pellicano and Jim Mitteager, who worked for the Globe and National Enquirer until his death in 1997. Pellicano agency private eye Paul Barresi had acquired the tapes, and, after Pellicano’s indictment in 2003, turned the tapes over to the CBS affiliate station. The tapes revealed how Pellicano agreed to betray his client Jean-Claude Van Damme in exchange for an agreement by Mitteager to kill an upcoming tabloid story on Pellicano’s client Whoopi Goldberg. The tapes also revealed how some reporters for the tabloids would solicit bribe money or accept bribe money from private eyes in order to kill an unfavorable story.
Pellicano and his associates had other tactics for reporters chasing stories the private eye did not want to see published. When, back in the mid-1990s, former NYPD Detective John Connolly began to write about the Mafia ties of Pellicano’s client Steven Seagal, strange things began to happen. One involved a lawsuit, filed by Pellicano associate Marty Singer against Connolly BEFORE his article about Seagal was even published in Spy Magazine. Predictably, that lawsuit was withdrawn.
Pellicano is currently under indictment on various charges, including the wiretapping of the phone of his own client, Sylvester Stallone, as well as charges involving threats against former Los Angeles Times reporter Anita Busch. Private investigator Alexander Proctor, who has worked for Pellicano, has also been charged on State charges regarding the threats against Ms. Busch. According to a recent Los Angeles Times report, Anthony Pellicano has plotted while in prison to utilize Mafia associates in Chicago to murder Proctor. DeadlineHollywoodDaily.com has reported that the U. S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles has notified John Connolly that Pellicano has also recently plotted to harm him as well.
Proctor’s arrest in 2002 was brought about by a tape made by an FBI Informant in which Proctor bragged about his role in the campaign to silence reporter Anita Busch. Pellicano allegedly had wanted Proctor to blow up Busch’s automobile, but in scooping out the layout for such a crime, Proctor believed the close proximity of the car to Busch’s residence would likely set that building on fire. Thus, Proctor instead put an apparent bullet hole in the windshield of the reporter’s car, along with a dead fish, a standard Mafia symbol, with the attached written admonition: "Stop!"
Armed with such allegations on tape, authorities then raided Pellicano’s Sunset Boulevard office, having obtained search warrants seeking evidence to back-up the alleged car bombing plot. Inside Pellicano’s safe the FBI found grenades and C-4 plastic explosives. A small amount of C-4 can destroy an automobile, a jet airliner, or a yacht.
Pellicano first publicly revealed his penchant to resort to violence on behalf of a client during a 1992 interview with GQ Magazine. In 1991, Pellicano, according to published reports, was hired by the Kennedy family to dig up dirt on Patricia Bowman, the wealthy Florida resident who had claimed William Kennedy Smith raped her at the Kennedy family compound in Palm Beach. British journalist Taki Theodoracopulos then published the allegations of a London woman who claimed that several years earlier she had been raped in Manhattan by William Kennedy Smith and had then fled back to England after receiving death threats. The British woman’s allegations dovetailed that of three other women who would come forward to claim that Kennedy Smith had also attempted to rape them. None of those women were allowed to testify in the Kennedy Smith rape trial. Kennedy Smith was acquitted.
While Theodoracopulos’ account of the British woman who claimed Kennedy Smith raped her was never challenged, three years later he and his magazine the Spectator of London were sued by Pellicano’s client Sylvester Stallone, alleging Stallone had been libeled in a report that suggested the "Rocky" star had evaded the draft during the VietNam war. Stallone received a cash settlement. In addition to the lawsuit filed against Theodoracopulos that year, someone planted a bomb aboard the journalist’s yacht, blowing it into pieces. Luckily, no one was killed in the bombing of the yacht.
Journalist Hillel Levin is a respected writer from the Midwest whose latest book, WHEN CORRUPTION WAS KING, detailing two decades of Mafia mayhem in Chicago, has been well received. Back in the mid 1980s, however, Levin was arrested on drug charges which were later dropped after authorities determined Levin had been set-up. At the time, Levin was researching auto maker John DeLorean, who was acquitted on drug trafficking charges after Anthony Pellicano testified on his behalf. Levin’s book, GRAND DELUSIONS: THE COSMIC CAREER OF JOHN DELOREAN, was published in 1984. The apparent set-up of Levin was reported by Howard Blum and John Connolly in their March, 2004 Vanity Fair article "The Pellicano Brief." In the June, 2006 follow-up story, Connolly and Bryan Burrough reported the allegations of a woman who claims Pellicano and two clients discussed planting cocaine in the automobile of an adversary, which would then be pulled over by a crooked cop on Pellicano’s payroll. Connolly’s biography of Pellicano, THE SIN EATER, is expected to be published after the conclusion of the current charges against the embattled private eye.
Stuart Goldman is a journalist who was arrested by the Secret Service in 1990 on charges he illegally hacked into the computer files of the Fox TV network. Goldman, who was then working on a story about the tactics of the National Enquirer, claimed he was set up. Goldman also claimed he was the victim of a campaign of intimidation run by Anthony Pellicano. Journalist Rod Lurie has claimed that in 1990 while he also was investigating a story on the National Enquirer, Anthony Pellicano engaged in a systematic campaign of intimidation over the telephone in order to persuade Lurie to back away from the story. In March, 1990, while out riding his bicycle, Lurie was run over by an automobile in a case of hit-and-run that nearly killed the courageous journalist. Goldman’s and Lurie’s harrowing story is to be found in the book TABLOID BABY, written by Burt Kearns, a former Producer for the television programs HARD COPY and A CURRENT AFFAIR.
In August, 2002, journalist Ned Zeman reported to the police that a motorist pulled up alongside his car, pointed a gun at him and yelled: "Bang!" Neman at the time was researching his story on Steven Seagal and his mob ties which was published in the October, 2002 edition of Vanity Fair magazine. Diane Dimond, a reporter for the television tabloid ‘Hard Copy,’ told the police in 1993 that she believed her phone had been tapped. At the time, Dimond was aggressively following the story of a young boy who was making child molestation allegations against Pellicano’s client Michael Jackson.
And, for whatever it is worth, it should be noted that in 2004, this reporter’s computer was hacked and destroyed by a person or persons unknown.
John Connolly and Anita Busch have been hired by veteran TV Producer Dick Wolf as consultants for his new program POWER, according to the New York Post. Wolf, the creator of the mega-hit LAW AND ORDER wants his new show POWER to focus on the efforts of law enforcement in Los Angeles to bring criminals to Justice.
PSYCHICSSome private investigators working in America, as well as some law enforcement agencies, utilize the services of ‘psychics’ as a tool in their investigations. Numerous books - and the Court TV program "Psychic Detective" and NBC program "Medium" - document this practice. The late private eye June Davidson, who worked with former Congressman James Traficant, currently serving time in a Federal prison for bribery, was among those who turned to psychics for ‘guidance’ in solving cases for clients.
Bob Olson is a former private investigator who offers grief counseling services to those who have recently lost a loved one, most notably through his website BestPsychicMediums.com. Olson’s website offers a ‘Genuine & Legitimate Psychic Mediums List,’ detailing several psychics across America that have testimonials from satisfied customers.
EVIDENCE ANALYSISPrivate investigators have, in recent years, delved into the somewhat murky field of ‘evidence analysis,’ in which they put evidence under scrutiny, scientific and otherwise. Anthony Pellicano emerged as a leader in this new profession by self-appointing himself as an expert in the art and science of audio tape analysis. Pellicano’s stature as such received national attention in 1983, when criminal attorney Howard Weitzman recruited Pellicano as a Defense Witness in the drug trafficking conspiracy trial of John DeLorean. DeLorean, a self-made millionaire, had burst onto the national scene by creating a hand-crafted automobile company. However, when facing bankruptcy, DeLorean allegedly entered into a conspiracy to launder profits from the sale of cocaine to save his beloved company. Unbeknownst to DeLorean, the deal was a set-up by the FBI, who were secretly taping the transactions. Facing seemingly impossible odds, Weitzman put Pellicano on the stand to impeach the integrity of the tapes. The jury believed Pellicano and DeLorean was acquitted.
Pellicano was also reported to have been hired by the Clinton campaign to examine audio tapes secretly recorded by Jennifer Flowers of her conversations with then-Governor Bill Clinton, which Flowers purported as evidence of their long-term sexual affair. Flowers revealed the tapes after selling her story to Star Magazine on the eve of the crucial New Hampshire primary in 1992, in which Clinton was the favorite to win in his bid for the nomination of the Democratic Party for President of the United States. That Flowers sold her story to the Star, the rival of the National Enquirer, is better understood now that it has been widely reported that Pellicano was a frequent source for the Enquirer.
During the 1990s and into 2001, Pellicano’s services as an audio-tape analyst were retained by the FBI, according to Pellicano’s biographer and nemesis John Connolly and Vanity Fair partner Bryan Burrough, who have revealed the FBI sought Pellicano’s expertise in audio analysis in the drug trafficking trial of former Gambino Family Underboss Sammy "The Bull" Gravano.
BOOK WRITINGOne method of the private eyes in pursuing the agenda of their clients, if not their own desire for self-promotion, has been the publication of their own books, which more often than not portray the gumshoes in the Romantic, heroic style of Hollywood ‘film noir’ classics such as the Philip Marlowe films, the series of hard-boiled private dick Mike Hammer motion pictures, and the genre favorite "Chinatown," featuring Jack Nicholson as the jaded "Jake Gittes." However, like the exploits of a low-level covert operative who has seen one too many James Bond movies, ‘true-crime’ books by private investigators often do not meet the success of ‘fiction’ books of the genre.
In 1987 California private eye Scott Barnes published his book B.O.H.I.C.A., an acronym for ‘Bend Over, Here It Comes Again.’ Barnes, who once did jail time for illegally tape-recording phone conversations, told his story of how he traveled to Southeast Asia in the early 1980s in search of American soldiers from the Viet Nam war allegedly still being held in prison camps. Barnes had a sponsor in H. Ross Perot, a Texas billionaire with a lot of time and money at his disposal. A few years earlier, in 1983, Barnes had created a minor sensation when ABC News reported that Barnes had been hired by the CIA to assassinate a Hawaii conman who had ripped off millions of dollars from an investment firm. The esteemed ABC News anchor Peter Jennings, in perhaps the only such embarrassing moment of his distinguished career, was forced to deliver an on-air retraction of the network’s story on Barnes.
Apparently, ABC News did not learn it’s lesson from this debacle, and ran a story in 1989 claiming the CIA was responsible for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, which killed 270 people when the plane exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland in December, 1988. The ABC report was prompted by a press conference called by then-Congressman James Traficant of Ohio, who would utilize the information provided to him by a DEA Informant named Lester Coleman, and a private investigator who immigrated to the United States from his native Israel, Juval Aviv. ABC News London correspondent Pierre Salinger, (former President Kennedy’s Press Secretary, and a life-long proponent of Kennedy assassination conspiracy theories), had run the story, once again to the embarrassment of Peter Jennings. Eventually, the Justice Department indicted two agents of Libyan Intelligence for the bombing and Traficant’s and Salinger’s CIA theory lost credibility as the Media began to scrutinize its proponents.
Lester Coleman was able to get his allegations published in a book in which he portrayed himself as a daring "superspy," but agent Michael Hurley of the Drug Enforcement Administration filed a lawsuit, and the publisher, Bloomsbury, issued a public apology to Hurley, $155,000 in damages, $465,000 in legal fees, and agreed to shred all remaining copies of Coleman’s book. Coleman later pleaded guilty to Perjury charges and admitted the Pan Am/CIA story was a hoax.
Juval Aviv, the private investigator whose report for Pan Am implicated the CIA, is the key subject of the 1984 cloak-and-dagger book "Vengeance," an account of what he claimed was his life as a "superspy" for Israeli Intelligence. The Israeli government denied Aviv’s claims and the U. S. President’s Commission on Aviation Security and Terrorism would later conclude that Aviv had fabricated his past as a spy. In 1996 Aviv was put on trial in Manhattan on Federal fraud charges unrelated to the Pan Am case. Aviv hired as his attorney Gerald Shargel, one of the most skilled criminal lawyers in the country, who has made a career defending members of the Mafia, including John Gotti and John "Junior" Gotti. Aviv was acquitted. Aviv was more successful with his own two subsequent books on the subject of terrorism, although his public prediction in July, 2005 that another terrorist attack would take place in America within 90 days did not prove to be accurate.
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