SECRETS OF THE PRIVATE EYES
By J. R. de Szigethy
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.’
A 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.
Private 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.
Some 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 ENTERING
One 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.
In 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.
Private 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.
In 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.
Private 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. SCAM
One 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 JOURNALISTS
Some 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.
Some 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.
Private 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.
One 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.
Frank Monte is a private investigator from Australia who has billed himself as "the World’s Most Famous Detective." As in the case of Lester Coleman’s book on Pan Am Flight 103, Monte’s book "The Spying Game" was pulped by it’s publisher after allegations surfaced that he fabricated stories about the late fashion guru Gianni Versace. Monte had alleged that Versace’s sensational 1997 murder in Miami was a result of Versace’s alleged money laundering with the Mafia. Versace’s siblings Donatella and Santo were not pleased, and successfully sued Monte in the Australian Courts. In 1999, the New York State Department of State, the office that oversees the licensing of private investigators who operate in that State, fined Monte $1,000.00 and temporarily suspended his license in regards to Monte’s actions involving a client who hired the private eye to find his missing daughter.
RELIGIOUS GROUPS/ CHURCHES/ CULTS
The past several decades have seen the phenomenon of the rise of the ‘televangelist,’ where the ages-old American tradition of the traveling preacher became wedded to the medium of television in a marriage not exactly made in Heaven. By the 1980s several such TV ministries were each raking in over $100 million a year. With that much income at stake - and at the disposal of the televangelists - it was inevitable that such Churches of the airways would employ the services of private investigators to further the ministry’s own agenda.
Recent history of the televangelists have shown that Hell hath no fury like a televangelist scorned. One classic example involved one of America’s largest Protestant Churches, the Assemblies of God, which, in it’s heyday in the 1980s reached millions of followers worldwide, largely through satellite-tv broadcasts of popular programs featuring Church stars including Jim & Tammy Faye Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart, and the Reverend Marvin Gorman. However, as in the Biblical tale of the Garden of Eden, Evil would eventually provoke trouble in Paradise, and, like a serpent, a private eye would emerge as the instrument of discord.
This story beings in 1980. At that time, Marvin Gorman was flourishing as a TV evangelist covering the colorful and diverse religious scene in New Orleans, Louisiana. Not far to the North was the Christian empire of Jimmy Swaggart, the flamboyant evangelist who mirrored his cousin Mickey Gilley, the country-western music star and fellow cousin Jerry Lee Lewis, the rock music pioneer, all three of whom riffed away on a piano during their performances to the delight of their fans.
As the religion empire of Gorman and Swaggart grew, so did that of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker. Jim Bakker was not some harsh ‘fire and brimstone’ preacher warning of the dangers of Hell by the commission of Sin, but rather a simple entrepreneur who unashamedly preached the Gospel of American Capitalism as the Divine Will of God. Wife Tammy Faye sang her heart out on their program, although Talent had clearly eluded her at birth, as well as had Fashion, which was evidenced by her outlandish attire, including her trademark tacky, yet quintessentially rural American eyeliner and mascara.
Jim and Tammy Faye first got their start on the fledgling Christian Broadcasting Network, with Jim receiving national attention as the host of the ‘700 Club,’ a ‘Tonight Show’- style talk show format that appealed to a nationwide audience of Christians thirsty for faith-based programming. As the show grew in popularity, however, Bakker was forced out by CBN founder the Reverend Pat Robertson.
From that experience, Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker then partnered with Dr. Paul and Jan Crouch to form the ‘Praise the Lord’ program for the fledgling Trinity Broadcasting Network that operated out of headquarters in California. After a year’s work with TBN, the Bakker’s then took their ‘PTL Club’ to the East Coast, where they established the PTL network.
Trouble began for all in 1980, when the Reverend John Wesley Fletcher, an adventurous bi-sexual associate of Reverend Bakker’s, traveled to Florida with a Secretary from a New York area Church. The young woman’s name was Jessica Hahn, and Fletcher facilitated a meeting between Bakker and Hahn in a motel room.
In his autobiography I WAS WRONG a repentant Jim Bakker admitted to the encounter with Hahn, which he alleged was a quick act of sex, but Hahn would later claim was rape. Over the next several years, while Bakker had forgotten about this encounter, the duplicitous Reverend Fletcher was proffering the scandal to various interested - as well as uninterested - parties. Jessica Hahn was paid ‘hush money,’ but the scandal soon became known to operatives in the camps of Jerry Falwell and Jimmy Swaggart. Disclosure of the scandal threatened Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker’s PTL empire, which by that time had grown to include Heritage, USA, the theme park that had become the third most popular such resort in America, after Disneyland and Disney World.
As details of the scandal were leaked to the Media - and Federal law enforcement authorities - Jim Bakker came to believe that he was the target of a campaign by envious fellow televangelists - coveting his prized satellite communications network - who sought his downfall for their own professional gain. Reverend Marvin Gorman by this time had already been defrocked by the Assemblies of God after the Swaggart camp had forwarded evidence of Martin’s adultery to the national headquarters of the Church.
However, Reverend Gorman retaliated against Swaggart by hiring his own private investigator, who tracked Swaggart and several other men to a New Orleans motel room, in which they were photographed coming and going in the company of a prostitute. Those photographs were then forwarded to the national hierarchy of the Assemblies of God Church. Once exposed, Jimmy Swaggart seized the opportunity in a way that Bakker would not, by going on television and confessing his Sins in a gut-wrenching emotional performance that satisfied many of his followers but was greeted with derision by his detractors. Just 3 years later, in 1991, Swaggart would be pulled over by police officers in the Palm Springs, California area, where he was found to be in the company of a known prostitute. Also that year, Reverend Marvin Gorman won a multi-million dollar defamation lawsuit against Jimmy Swaggart.
As Jim Bakker’s own sex scandal was about to be made public, Jerry Falwell, the fundamentalist Baptist preacher from Virginia, convinced Bakker to turn his PTL empire over to him - on a temporary basis, Bakker would later claim. However, as the scandal escalated, the Feds charged Bakker with fraud regarding the over-selling of timeshares to his theme park. Bakker was also charged with racketeering - those statutes usually reserved for members of the American Mafia. Bakker was convicted and sentenced to 45 years in prison, a term later substantially reduced on Appeal. Today, Jim Bakker is back on television with a new wife and new program. Tammy Faye, Reverend Gorman, and Jimmy Swaggart, also have a television and website presence. John Wesley Fletcher pleaded guilty in 1990 to perjuring himself before a Grand Jury investigating the Jessica Hahn affair. Fletcher, who received 3 years probation, would later die of AIDS.
A decade after the Jim Bakker scandal, his former network the Trinity Broadcasting Network would be hit with scandal. Once again, a private investigator was at the center of the action. His name was Mario Licciardello, who was hired by TBN’s star televangelist, Benny Hinn, to investigate the finances of his ministry. In addition to what he claimed was financial impropriety, Licciardello detected a young man with a past which included drug arrests who had made an allegation against a high-ranking TBN official, alleging sexual misconduct.
Back in 1996, when the young man first made his allegations, the TBN official categorically denied them, but eventually assented to the payment of over $400,000 to the former employee as settlement of his "wrongful termination and sexual harassment " lawsuit, an agreement which gagged the alleged victim from further public discussion of his allegations. This ugly story resurfaced again in 2004, when the former employee began to proffer a book he had written about his experiences - including gay sex - within the TBN Network. The Los Angeles Times then picked up the story. Was the TBN official, as his accuser alleged, a gay sexual predator, or the victim of an extortion attempt? A TBN spokesperson dismissed the claims as "false accusations" made by "a convicted child molester and drug user." An Arbitration Court would later rule that the former employee could not publish the manuscript in question as it would violate the previous financial agreement signed in 1998.
Attorneys for televangelist Benny Hinn would also allege that private investigator Mario Licciardello was trying to extort money from the Church by threatening to go public with negative information he had claimed to have uncovered during his internal investigation of the ministry. The fact that two employees of Hinn’s had both died within a year of each other due to heroin abuse did not paint a pretty picture as to what was going on inside a ministry led by a man who claimed to be a faith healer. However, Hinn’s lawyers fought back, asking a Court in Florida to impose a gag order on Licciardello, a former police officer who had a felony conviction for burglary and theft. Private eye Licciardello died the very day before Hinn was to be deposed in the legal battle with his former employer. Hinn then moved his faith-healing mission to new headquarters outside Dallas, Texas. That location proved to be troublesome, given that Dallas is the location of the "Trinity Foundation," a non-profit organization dedicated to scrutinizing the financial dealings and personal conduct of those in the televangelism industry. Private investigators for the Trinity Foundation had already been monitoring the Hinn ministry, having found a an enormous amount of information about the Church as the result of resorting to the tried-and-true method of dumpster diving.
A private investigator can take the credit for finally bringing down Garner Ted Armstrong, who at the height of his popularity was one of the most respected televangelists of the 20th Century. Ted’s father, Herbert W. Armstrong, had, in 1934, founded what would evolve into the enormously successful Worldwide Church of God, basing it’s operations in Pasadena, California. Key to the success of the Church was it’s magazine ‘The Plain Truth,’ and it’s television program, ‘The World Tomorrow.’ As the Church grew, the elder Armstrong passed along the magazine and television program to his son Garner Ted, while his father traveled the globe to meet with world leaders while cultivating his role as "Ambassador without Portfolio." Garner Ted, whose non-threatening, down-home style made him the religious world’s equivalent of Walter Cronkite, became a popular figure in broadcasting, attracting a ‘mainstream’ American audience that generally looked down on televangelism.
However, in 1972, Herbert W. Armstrong detected his son Garner Ted in adultery, and threw him out of the Church. The Elder Armstrong then further alienated a large portion of the Church’s following by declaring that the World would end in 1975. The fact that the World did not end in 1975, coupled with the absence of the popular Garner Ted, resulted in a precipitous decline in revenues to the Church, thus necessitating "forgiveness" of Ted’s sins, which resulted in his being brought back into the Church’s fold. Unfortunately, the amorous Ted was once again detected in adultery, and in 1978 was banished forever from his father and the Church he had built. Garner Ted then established his own Church and television Ministry out of headquarters in Tyler, Texas. From that location, Armstrong had minimal success as compared to that of his father’s Church. In 1995, Armstrong sexually propositioned a Nurse whom he had hired for therapeutic services. Rather than go to the police, the Nurse went to a private investigator, who arranged to secretly videotape their next therapy session. The private eye’s video caught the aging televangelist on tape in an attempted sexual assault, portions of which were later broadcast on Geraldo Rivera’s television show.
A more recent story of the intersection of religion and private investigators was revealed in 2006, when the Reverend Michael Madden had to resign his new position as pastor of a Connecticut Church after admitting he hired a private eye to investigate the previous pastor. That member of the clergy, the Reverend Michael Jude Fay, had resigned after the private eye uncovered evidence - reported by the Media - that Father Fay had spent over $200,000 of the Church’s money on maintaining a lavish lifestyle for himself and a male friend. That lifestyle included a Fort Lauderdale condominium, an apartment on Manhattan’s fashionable Upper East Side, limousine rides and vacation cruises. Father Fay had served on the Sexual Misconduct Review Board of his diocese, a watchdog group formed to respond to the child sex abuse scandals of this decade.
Also, the story must be told of a California private investigator who sold his tale to a national tabloid magazine in which he alleged to have had a sexual relationship with a Hollywood celebrity who is a member of a controversial Church. After the story was published, private investigators for the Church launched a vicious smear campaign against the private investigator, focusing their dirty tricks against the private eye’s wife, family, neighbors, and friends. Eventually, the private investigator recanted his story.
This campaign of character assassination, however, was tame compared to what private eye Jerry Parks was subjected to: in September, 1993, Parks was murdered gangland-style at a traffic intersection in Little Rock, Arkansas. The following year, the Reverend Jerry Falwell released a video for sale, "The Clinton Chronicles," which explored various conspiracy theories surrounding the murder of Parks, who had worked for the Clinton campaign in 1992, and other conspiracy theories, including those surrounding the death of White House lawyer Vince Foster. The murder of Jerry Parks remains unsolved.
If you are a man accused of rape, and you are rich, you can expect private eyes to leave no stone unturned in digging up dirt on your accuser to obtain an acquittal. Andrew Luster was an heir to the Max Factor cosmetics empire, living out his inheritance as a California beach bum. In 2002, Luster was placed on trial for raping three women after secreting to them the ‘date rape’ drug known as GHB, crimes which Luster videotaped, supposedly for his later viewing pleasure. Luster’s defense team apparently felt confident they could discredit at least one of the three accusers based in part on evidence dug up by private eye Bill Pavelic. However, as the trial progressed and conviction seemed certain, Luster fled America for a hideout in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Convicted ‘in abstentia,’ Bounty hunters later captured Luster and returned him to the United States to serve out his sentence of over 100 years in prison.
Another infamous case of alleged rape was that of Patricia Bowman, who accused William Kennedy Smith of rape over the Easter weekend in 1991. The New York Times would then publish a scathing, tabloid-style story on the alleged rape victim, naming her by name, in violation of both Florida State law as well as the Times’ own ‘shield law’ protecting the identities of allegedly abused women. Editors, journalists, and staff members of the New York Times were shocked, embarrassed, and outraged over this unprecedented violation of the paper’s journalistic ethics. As detailed in Jeannette Walls’ best-seller DISH, Anthony Pellicano was named as the private investigator for the Kennedy Family who provided negative information to the New York Times about Ms. Bowman. William Kennedy Smith was acquitted.
Frequently when a person is accused of murder, that person’s criminal lawyer will hire at least one private investigator to help develop alternative scenarios as to who may instead have been responsible for the crime. Mark Geragos is a California-based criminal attorney who has previously represented actress Winona Ryder on shoplifting charges, Michael Jackson on child molestation charges, former Congressman Gary Condit, and Whitewater figure Susan McDougal. Geragos is perhaps best known for his defense of Scott Peterson, the fertilizer salesman who was accused of murdering his wife Laci and unborn son during Christmas, 2002. Geragos hired as one of his private eyes Bill "Zvonko" Pavelic, a former Los Angeles Police Detective who has worked for the defense team of O. J. Simpson, Michael Jackson, Robert Blake, and convicted rapist Andrew Luster. Geragos and his team came under widespread scorn when, in the months leading up to the trial of Peterson, they floated in the Media a conspiracy theory which blamed the murder of Laci Peterson on a satanic cult. That theory never flew and Peterson was convicted and sentenced to death.
After the conviction of Gambino Godfather John Gotti that sent him away for Life, private eyes working for Gotti’s attorneys began an investigation that tried to uncover evidence that the star Prosecution witness against Gotti, Sammy "The Bull" Gravano, had committed more than the 19 murders he confessed to when he agreed to be a co-operating witness. If the private eyes had come up with compelling evidence linking Gravano to just one undisclosed murder, such evidence could have been used to get Gotti’s conviction overturned. It wasn't until after Gotti had died that Gravano was charged with a 20th murder, that of an NYPD Detective, Peter Calabro. Fingering Gravano in the hit was Richard Kuklinski, known as "The Iceman" for his practice of freezing some of his victims to disguise the time and method of death. The theory that has been floated regarding the murder of Officer Calabro is that Gravano feared that if he told the Feds he murdered a cop, there would be enormous pressure within the law enforcement community to solicit the Judge in the case from giving Gravano the very-lenient sentence of just 5 years in prison. Kuklinski died before Gravano was put on trial.
One murder investigation by private eyes that backfired, with disastrous results for the rich and powerful family that commissioned the investigation, was that of the case of the Skakel family of Greenwich, CT., a wealthy clan connected by marriage to the Kennedy Family. In 1992, the Skakel Family hired the private investigation firm of Sutton Associates to investigate the 1975 murder of 15-year-old Martha Moxley, found brutally beaten under a tree outside her home in a very safe and secure private community. The theory that emerged was that young Martha was raped and murdered nearby and that her body was then dragged to the place under the tree in which she was found, suggesting two people may have been involved in the crime. Suspicion fell upon teen-ager Thomas Skakel and his live-in tutor, Ken Littleton.
Far from pinning the blame for the murder on Littleton, the "Sutton Report" cast suspicion on both Tommy Skakel and his younger brother Michael, both of whom had changed their stories from that which they originally gave to police at the time of the murder. Michael Skakel’s new story sounded the most suspect; Skakel was now claiming that on the night of the murder, he climbed a tree outside Martha’s house and threw pebbles at her second-floor bedroom window, hoping to coax Martha to come outside and join him in a sexual encounter. Frustrated that Martha did not appear, Michael was now claiming, he then masturbated while atop the tree, his semen then falling to the ground at the very spot where later Martha’s dead body would be deposited. Thus, Michael claimed, if any new investigation into the murder turned up evidence of his DNA at the crime scene, that was how his semen could have been deposited on Martha’s body.
Martha’s long-suffering mother Dorothy Moxley waged a 20-year battle against apparent cover-up by authorities in Greenwich to bring Justice for her murdered little girl. Among those most responsible for solving this case were author Dominick Dunne, whose fictionalized version of the crime, A SEASON IN PERGATORY became a best-seller, former LAPD Detective Mark Fuhrman, who had a true-crime best selling account, MURDER IN GREENWICH, and Tom Alessi, a school-time friend of Martha’s who spread the story worldwide via his acclaimed website MARTHAMOXLEY.COM. As a result of the actions of these three men and Mrs. Moxley, public pressure became so great that Connecticut authorities could no longer ignore the infamous murder, a Grand Jury was convened, and Michael Skakel was indicted for the murder of Martha Moxley. After a sensational trial, Skakel was convicted and is currently serving a prison sentence.
Another sensational trial of recent years was the case of Ted Binion, a millionaire Casino owner who was found dead in his luxurious Las Vegas home in September, 1998. Originally, the cause of death was ruled to be an accidental overdose of several drugs, including heroin. However, in March, 2000, Binion’s live-in lover, a young woman named Sandy Murphy, along with her other lover, Rick Tabish, went to trial on charges they murdered Binion. One motive for the killings was a cache of silver bullion worth millions that Tabish stole two days after Binion’s death. Murphy and Tabish were convicted in State Court on all charges.
Having been convicted of murder, Sandy Murphy turned to Las Vegas private investigator Steven Caracappa, as well as renown criminal lawyer Alan Dershowitz, to help regain her freedom. Caracappa recruited his neighbor and former NYPD partner, Lou Eppolito, the son of a Gambino Mafia Family figure, to help sway public opinion in favor of Murphy and Tabish. While Caracappa dug up negative information on potential witnesses in a hoped-for retrial, Eppolito mounted a publicity campaign in which ‘outraged’ average citizens were demanding "Justice" for Sandy Murphy. Meanwhile, attorney Dershowitz succeeded in obtaining an overturning of the original conviction. The second time around, both Murphy and Tabish were acquitted of the murder of Ted Binion. However, Caracappa and Eppolito, the "Mafia Cops," would later be convicted for participating in several murders ordered by former Luchese Family Underboss Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso.
THE ‘HOMELESS MAN’ SCAM
In recent years, private eyes have come up with new ways to achieve their goals, one of which is the ‘homeless man’ scam. Under this tactic, private eyes will either pay a homeless man to make certain allegations against a targeted individual or even commit certain crimes, or a private investigator will pose as a homeless person to members of law enforcement in order to further their corrupt agenda.
One classic example occurred on the East Coast of the United States during the 1990s. A small-time gossip columnist had come across some big-time gossip about the scion of a prominent family heavily involved in politics and organized crime. The man’s family wanted the gossip columnist discredited at any cost, and hired private investigators who had a demonstrated track record in running a campaign of character assassination. In this case, local law enforcement authorities were soon paid a visit by a ‘homeless man’ who claimed to have been someone who was regularly given spare change by a local man who was subsequently murdered by someone police believed to be a serial killer. The ‘homeless man’ claimed to have seen the murder victim in the company of another man on the night of the murder and was able to give the authorities a complete description of the suspect.
The police drawing of the suspect was, of course, the face of the gossip columnist. Cops then got a ‘lucky break’ when they got an ‘anonymous tip’ identifying the gossip columnist as the suspect in the murder. For many years, members of the local police department had the journalist under surveillance in the belief he was the killer they were looking for. Of course, had any member of law enforcement had questions about the identification of the suspect by the ‘homeless man,’ that ‘witness’ could not be located for further questioning; conveniently, he was ‘homeless!’
After several years, the actual killer was captured, due to the efforts of a law enforcement agency in a different jurisdiction. Literally hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer funds were wasted on the scrutiny of the journalist, while at the same time the killer was presumably continuing his crime wave, inadvertently aided and abetted by the actions of the corrupt private investigators and the members of the law enforcement community they had duped.
Since the assassination of President Kennedy, a cottage industry has sprung up regarding various ‘conspiracy theories’ that attract a varied following among the American people. With potential book and movie deals in the works, this industry has grown into a multi-million dollar a year racket, and private eyes have been among those to exploit and capitalize on this national phenomenon.
Anthony Pellicano has been no exception, inserting himself into the Grand-daddy of all conspiracy theories, that of the assassination of President Kennedy. In the late 1970s Pellicano obtained and analyzed the tape accidentally recorded by a motorcycle cop in President Kennedy’s motorcade on that fateful day in Dallas, November 22, 1963. The tape purportedly recorded four - not three - gunshots, thus giving credence to those who believed Lee Harvey Oswald did not act alone in the shooting of the President. Pellicano’s analysis corroborated what the FBI had previously claimed about the President’s murder, that there was just one shooter who killed the President.
Pellicano would also later examine the infamous ‘18 ½ minute gap’ on one of the secretly-recorded White House Oval Office tapes President Nixon had to turn over to Congress, the outcry over which led to Nixon’s having to resign from office rather than face Impeachment. Nixon’s White House had released during that time an unintentionally hilarious photograph which showed how Nixon’s Secretary, Rose Mary Woods, in an outstretched position that would have challenged even the most skilled of contortionists, may have accidentally erased that part of the tape. Pellicano concluded that the gap on the tape was the probable result of an accident, not, as many believed, the attempt by Nixon to destroy evidence and thus Obstruct Justice.
Another private eye to impact on American politics was Scott Barnes, who hooked up with Ross Perot to prove their conspiracy theory that soldiers from the Vietnam war were still being held prisoner. In the 1980s, Barnes traveled to Southeast Asia in pursuit of American POWS, and while he did not find any, he solidified his relationship with Perot. In 1992, Ross Perot was leading in the polls to become the first Independent candidate to be elected President of the United States. Suddenly, Perot withdrew from the Presidential race. When he got back in a few months later Perot told 60 MINUTES that he had been blackmailed by Republican covert operatives who had fabricated "compromising photographs" of his daughter and another woman. Perot had asked his friends in the FBI to investigate and on August 6, 1992 Scott Barnes was photographed by the FBI offering ‘secretly recorded phone conversations of Ross Perot’ to Jim Oberwetter, the senior official in charge of President George Bush’s Texas re-election campaign. Oberwetter wouldn’t accept Barnes’ tapes and the FBI investigation came to a screeching halt. In 1997 Scott Barnes admitted that the "Republican conspiracy" against Perot was a hoax that he had concocted.
In the 1996 biography "Citizen Perot," investigative reporter Gerald Posner revealed other conspiracy theories put forward by Perot: among them; that Perot's lone, barking dog once scared off a hit team of five Black Panther assassins hired by the Viet Cong who had somehow infiltrated the elaborate security features surrounding his Dallas home; that Charles Harrelson, the father of actor Woody Harrelson, (and the man accused by conspiracy theorists of being the ‘other’ hitman on the ‘Grassy knoll’ that killed President Kennedy), had accepted an assassination contract against Perot from drug dealers; and that a hit team of 6 Cuban drug dealers were going to assassinate Perot in order to ensure the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement, (NAFTA), legislation Perot had opposed.
Posner, as well as other journalists, also revealed that Perot had, over the course of many years, utilized the resources of private investigators to spy on over 3,000 American citizens, some of whom were employees of Perot’s companies, while others were members of Perot’s political party UNITED WE STAND. Several of these people filed lawsuits against Perot in this regard.
As bizarre as the conspiracy theories espoused by Ross Perot and his private investigators, the Texas politician may have been surpassed by a politician from Youngstown, Ohio, former Congressman James Traficant. The politico from self-named "Murdertown, USA," Traficant was indicted by the Feds in 1980 on charges he accepted $98,000 in bribes from members of the Cleveland and Pittsburgh Mafia families. Acting as his own attorney, Traficant convinced the jurors he only accepted the money as part of his own undercover sting operation as a candidate for County Sheriff. The jury bought this and Traficant rode the notoriety from this case to become elected to Congress in 1984.
Once in Congress, Traficant wasted no time in pursuing his own conspiracy theories, most notably his claim regarding the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. One person Traficant turned to in this regard was Boris de Korczak, a retired "superspy" from Poland who immigrated to America to become a private investigator. Boris is best known for the lawsuit he filed in 1996 against the CIA claiming he was owed money from an alleged recruitment in the 1970s as a double agent against the KGB. At a 1979 party at the Soviet Embassy in Denmark, Boris claimed, his ‘cover’ was blown by a drunken U. S. Embassy official, resulting in a shoot-out with the KGB during a wild car chase through the streets of Copenhagen. Boris also swore that once he had entered the United States, his CIA case officer demanded a bribe of Medieval Russian icons worth $300,000 in exchange for help obtaining the Pension he claimed he was owed. Boris claimed he turned over the bribe, only to be shot in the kidney 4 months later by an unknown assailant armed with a pellet gun. The CIA denied Boris’ claims he was owed monetary compensation and also denied any of it’s employees shot Boris with a pellet gun. Boris’ case was dismissed and the decision was upheld on Appeal.
Congressman Traficant and Boris de Korczak then joined forces with another colorful private investigator, William Acosta. Acosta’s long, strange trip into the world of information peddling began in 1990, when he joined the NYPD. However, after making allegations of corruption against his fellow police officers, Acosta was accused of falsifying evidence. Acosta resigned from the NYPD in 1991.
Two years later, Acosta was involved in one of the most bizarre legal cases in New York history; the murder for hire indictment of Dr. Thomas R. Stevens, a leader in the local New York Young Republican movement. Stevens was one of several disgruntled former officials of Ross Perot’s organization UNITED WE STAND who, in May, 1993 expressed their disillusionment during an interview with Ted Koppel on ABC’s NIGHTLINE program. Immediately after Stevens’ NIGHTLINE appearance he noticed persons both known and unknown were following him.
Whoever was out to discredit Dr. Stevens, the political activist soon found himself the victim of a smear campaign; Stevens was alleged to be a cocaine addict, a government spy against Ross Perot, and a child molester. Stevens was furious when these allegations got back to him and at that point Stevens met someone who called himself "Louie the hitman" from the Luchese Mafia Family. "Louie" suggested to Stevens that he would murder one of the men who was spreading the false rumors about him and in exchange wanted Stevens to launder Luchese drug money through a Young Republican bank account. Stevens allegedly agreed to Louie’s scheme.
How is this known? Because "Louie" - in reality William Acosta - was wearing a wire and turned his tapes over to the U. S. Attorney’s Office - Southern District of New York. At Stevens’ arraignment, the Feds asked Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald to hold Stevens without bail. Stevens’ attorney argued that no money had exchanged hands between his client and "Louie the hitman," nor did Stevens really believe "Louie" to be a hitman, but rather he was just playing along with "Louie" in an effort to identify who the people were that were plotting against him. Judge Buchwald remarked; "It sounds like West Side Story!" Sensing that something was wrong with this bizarre case, Buchwald denied the Prosecutor’s request and released Stevens to House Arrest.
On the eve of the Stevens trial, this reporter turned over secretly-recorded conversations of two FBI Informants who demanded I commit Perjury as a Prosecution Witness in the case. (It is not illegal in New York to tape record conversations.) Once the Prosecutors - and the Media - had copies of the tapes, the U. S. Attorney’s office then asked for a trial Adjournment and the Federal Judge in the case later threw out the charges "With Prejudice."
Despite this debacle, William Acosta was then re-hired a second time by the NYPD, this time to work as an investigator in the Internal Affairs Bureau. Acosta soon made the stunning allegation that Chief Louis Anemone, one of the highest-ranking members of the NYPD, was "Mobbed-up," having allegedly taken bribes from organized crime figures in Harlem. After an investigation, the charges against Anemone were not pursued, but Acosta was placed on departmental trial on charges he fabricated evidence. Acosta was acquitted but once again resigned from the Police Department. Eventually, the NYPD would settle a lawsuit by Acosta, who was rehired a third time by the NYPD for one day, and was also awarded a cash settlement.
Unsubstantiated allegations of "Mobbed-up" cops would be a theme in another bizarre caper involving private eyes of questionable methods, in which William Acosta would play a role. The case involved two men involved in drugs who were arrested for the brutal murder of a young Philadelphia woman, Kimberly Ernest, whom the Media dubbed the ‘Center City Jogger.’ As is typical in such a case, lawyers for the accused, Fred Ambrose and Samuel Malat, hired private eyes to investigate the case, including Stephen Stouffer and Albert Tyree. What Stouffer and Tyree came up with, with some help from Acosta, was an elaborate conspiracy theory that pointed the blame for the murder away from their clients. The theory proposed was that Ernest had been murdered by a serial killer on the loose. At one point, Ambrose ‘named names,’ going public with the allegation that a young scion of a politically-connected Philadelphia family was the ‘real’ murderer. That young man was John Lambert, who may have been an easy target given his own struggle with drug abuse.
John Lambert’s mother was devastated when private eyes Stouffer and Tyree showed up unannounced at her home, explaining that her son was a serial killer whom they wanted her help from in obtaining his confession. The private eyes also alleged that there was a vast cover-up on behalf of the serial killer, which included the participation of local Detective Tom Augustine, whom, they claimed, was ‘Mobbed up.’
The story was a sensation in Philadelphia, but one local reporter, Howard Altman, doggedly followed the bizarre story from beginning to end for the weekly Philadelphia City Paper. Such was the unfailing belief by the proponents of this conspiracy theory that Lambert was a serial killer, attorney Ambrose proposed to the private eyes that they shoot Lambert from afar with a bow and arrow in order to draw his blood, which, they were certain, would link Lambert to the various murders upon DNA analysis. Such proposed methods of obtaining a DNA sample would put the average ‘dumpster diver’ private eye to shame.
As outrageous as these schemes sound, there was nothing funny about the years of public scrutiny John Lambert and Detective Augustine were put through as various law enforcement agencies investigated both men. While the two men accused of the murder of Kimberly Ernest were acquitted after a sensational trial, it would be several years before two separate investigations found that the allegations against Detective Augustine were completely unsubstantiated. John Lambert eventually killed himself with drugs, at which point his DNA was at long last examined. The lab results showed that young Lambert was not involved in any of the murders attributed to him. Indeed, all of the evidence collected by the authorities conclusively showed there was in fact no serial killer on the loose in Philadelphia.
The distraught parents of John Lambert were convinced that those who falsely accused their son of being a serial killer were responsible for the downward emotional spiral that led to their son’s tragic death. Thus, Lambert’s parents filed a lawsuit against attorneys Samuel Malat and Fred Ambrose and private investigators Stephen Stouffer and Albert Tyree. William Acosta was not named in the lawsuit. A jury would later award the couple a $40 million dollar Judgment. Fred Ambrose went on the lam in 2001 in the months before the lawsuit trial began, allegedly taking with him monies he had ripped off from some of his clients. Currently, Ambrose is being held in the Federal Detention Center in Philadelphia, awaiting trial on mail and bank fraud charges.
Despite this fiasco, William Acosta was not finished in his claims involving ‘serial killers on the loose.’ During the latter 1990s, Acosta and Boris de Korczak, working in conjunction with the office of Congressman Traficant, developed a conspiracy theory that a serial killer unknown was preying upon women in the State of Rhode Island and that this killer was responsible for the murder of a young woman, for whom a local police officer had been wrongly convicted. In this case, Boris and Acosta got the story half-right; while there was in fact no serial killer responsible, in 2002 the ‘real’ killer came forward and confessed and the wrongly-convicted police officer was freed.
Despite these setbacks against Congressman Traficant’s various private investigators, the Ohio Congressman was not finished with espousing his conspiracy theories. In August, 2000, Traficant appeared on the Fox Television Network program "Hannity & Colmes, " during which he alleged that then-Attorney General Janet Reno was guilty of Treason and was ‘Mobbed-up.’ Specifically, Traficant claimed the Mafia was blackmailing Reno through possession of a secretly-recorded videotape in which Reno was photographed having sex with a Mobbed-up call girl, and that the Mafia had used this tape to prevent Reno from appointing a Special Prosecutor to investigate the illegal transfer of secret nuclear and missile technology to the government of Communist China.
Later that year, Congressman Traficant was convicted in Federal Court in Cleveland on 10 Counts of bribery, income tax evasion, and racketeering, a conviction he claimed was in retaliation for his allegations against Attorney General Janet Reno. Before his sentencing, Traficant was expelled from Congress in a proceeding by that body that had only twice since the Civil War taken such a measure against a member of it’s own. The vote was 420 to 1, the lone holdout being lame duck Congressman Gary Condit, whose "Intern" Chandra Levy had been murdered in a crime that has yet to be solved.
While the private investigators scrutinized in this story may represent a minority of such professionals and their behavior throughout the United States, the horror stories presented here nevertheless demonstrate the harm such people can perpetrate on both individuals and the American society as a whole, given the historical lack of accountability by law enforcement. If the aggressive prosecution by the Feds in Los Angeles of Anthony Pellicano is meant to set an example and send a message to a profession under little control, this case may mark a turning point in regards to the impact of private investigators on the American way of life and our Judicial system.
Thus, the many ‘secrets of the private eyes’ are no longer secret anymore.
Related Features by this author:HOLLYWOOD CONFIDENTIAL:
The Rise and Fall of Anthony Pellicano
LICENSE TO KILL:
PARTNERS IN CRIME: THE MAFIA COPS
A CHRISTMAS MURDER IN HOLLYWOOD:
DEATH ON THE WATERFRONT
MURDER - AMERICAN STYLE!
CITIZEN PEROT by Gerald Posner, Random House, 1996.
Nikke Finke's DEADLINEHOLLYWOODDAILY.com
DISH: The Inside Story on the World of Gossip by Jeanette Walls, William Morrow & Company, 2000.
‘Inside Hollywood’s Big Wiretap Scandal,’ by Bryan Burrough and John Connolly. VANITY FAIR, June, 2006.
TO KILL THE IRISHMAN:The War that Crippled the Mafia
‘The Kimberly Conundrum,’ by Howard Altman. Philadelphia City Paper, 1999.
New York State Department of State
‘The Pellicano Brief,’ by Howard Blum and John Connolly. VANITY FAIR, March, 2004.
‘Seagal Under Siege,’ by Ned Zeman with John Connolly. VANITY FAIR, October, 2002.
The Smoking Gun
TABLOID BABY by Burt Kearns. Celebrity Books, 1999.
Confidential interviews with licensed private investigators and law enforcement officers.
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