Feature Articles

February 2006

The Rise and Fall of Anthony Pellicano

By J. R. de Szigethy

     The self-described "Private Investigator to the Stars," Anthony Pellicano, has again been hit with Federal indictments stemming from his practices as a Sunset Boulevard gumshoe. A new 110-count indictment charges that Pellicano destroyed evidence, committed witness tampering, perpetrated identity theft, and conducted illegal wiretapping, and that among his victims were actors Sylvester Stallone, Keith Carradine, Gary Shandling, and Kevin Nealon, in addition to a New York Times reporter and Los Angeles Times reporter, as well as other members of Hollywood�s show business community. Pellicano committed these acts, the Feds allege, as part of a �racketeering enterprise,� invoking RICO statutes usually only used against members of the American Mafia.

Pellicano�s 6 co-defendants are:

  Former LAPD Officer Mark Arneson, who allegedly tapped phones and accessed police computers for information on targets of Pellicano�s investigations;

  Rayford Earl Turner, a former telephone company employee;

  Kevin Kachikian, a computer software specialist who allegedly developed a wiretapping program for Pellicano;

  Robert Pfeifer, the once-President of Hollywood Records, a division of the Disney Company, who hired Pellicano to investigate a former girlfriend;

  Abner Nicherie, a Las Vegas businessman who hired Pellicano to investigate a business associate;

  And Daniel Nicherie, the brother of Abner Nicherie.

  Not charged was former Beverly Hills cop Craig Stevens, who has pleaded guilty to his role in this racketeering enterprise.

     The new indictments capped a 3-year investigation that begun after the Feds raided Pellicano�s Hollywood office and discovered C-4 plastic explosives and two hand grenades locked in his safe. That raid stemmed from the campaign of terror conducted against Los Angeles Times reporter Anita Busch, who was pursuing a story regarding the Mafia ties of action star Steven Seagal. An employee of Pellicano�s, Alexander Proctor, pleaded guilty to his role in this terror campaign against Busch, which included damaging her car and leaving on it a trademark calling-card of the American Mafia, in this case a dead fish, with an attached note that warned: "Stop!"

     Proctor and Pellicano were hit with State charges last year regarding their alleged campaign against Busch, who complained that her phone was also tapped and that her computer was hacked. Pellicano pleaded guilty to the first set of Federal charges and was due to be released from prison when the Feds moved in with the current charges. Pellicano has pleaded Not Guilty to all of the current charges.


     The story of Anthony Pellicano�s meteoric rise and precipitous fall reads like the plot of a Hollywood gumshoe B-movie. Anthony Pellican, the son of Sicilian immigrants, grew up in the corrupt Chicago suburb of Cicero in the 1950s and 1960s in a neighborhood that had more than it�s fair share of Mafia wiseguys and wannabes. Cicero citizen Sam Rovetuso, for example, was convicted in 1993 for conspiring to murder a Witness in a Federal case. Two years later, Rovetuso, working as both a private eye AND a co-operating witness for the Feds, secretly tape-recorded local government officials involved in a bribery and kickback scheme, including the police chief, all of whom were later convicted as a result of Rovetuso�s tapes.

     Such was the corrupt city in which Anthony Pellican was raised. After a stint in the U. S. Army, Pellican, in a salute to his Sicilian roots, restored the "O" to his last name that had been dropped by his �Americanized� parents, thus "Anthony Pellicano" then delved head-first into the �information business.� Pellicano�s association with members of organized crime were first revealed in 1974, when, in Bankruptcy papers, Pellicano listed as one of his creditors Paul DeLucia, Jr., the son of an alleged Chicago Mafia figure.

     Pellicano�s big break came in 1977, when grave robbers stole the body of Hollywood Producer Mike Todd from an Illinois cemetery. Baffled members of law enforcement meticulously searched the area around the graveyard for clues, but came up empty-handed. At that point, Pellicano interjected himself into the case; the story being floated around was that low-level Mafia associates had robbed the grave, believing Todd had been buried wearing an expensive ring given to him by his wife, actress Elizabeth Taylor. Utilizing his Mafia contacts, Pellicano, with a TV news film crew in tow, found the missing body in an area close to the cemetery that had previously been searched by law enforcement without success. A grateful Liz Taylor then vowed to recommend Pellicano�s services to all of her friends in Hollywood.

     Thus, a star - of the private eye profession - was born.

     Within a few years Pellicano had a lucrative, thriving business on the Sunset strip in Hollywood. Pellicano�s specialty - one that would later prove to be his undoing - would be his self-taught expertise on the subject of audio technology. In 1978, Pellicano submitted to Congress his analysis of a tape-recording accidentally made by a Dallas, Texas police officer who was riding in the motorcycle detail escorting President Kennedy through the streets of that city on November 22, 1963.

     Conspiracy theorists had hoped the tape had recorded 4 shots - not 3, as the Warren Commission had concluded, that resulted in the murder of the President.

     Pellicano would also later examine the infamous �18 � 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�s stature as an audio tape analyst received further 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 be creating a hand-crafted automobile company in the United States. 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 and other evidence. The jury believed Pellicano and John DeLorean was acquitted.

     Anthony Pellicano was on his way, eventually signing up as clients Hollywood icons Tom Cruise, Mike Myers, James Woods, Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson, Sylvester Stallone, Roseanne Barr, Robert Blake, Kevin Costner, and Priscilla Presley, as well as �bloody glove� cop Mark Fuhrman of the O. J. Simpson murder case.

     One of the first ethical challenges of Anthony Pellicano�s methods as a private eye surfaced in 1991, when a young woman alleged that William Kennedy Smith had raped her at his family�s historic home in Palm Beach. A friend of the Kennedy Family from Boston would later publish in the New York Times 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 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 the alleged rape victim.

     Similar allegations would surface in the mid-1990s when John Connolly, a retired NYPD Detective, began to write a succession of stories on actor Steven Seagal, which alleged he had ties to members of the Gambino Mafia Family. Seagal was said to have hired Pellicano to run interference, and Connolly would document intimidation tactics taken against him as he relentlessly pursued the target of his investigation, actor Seagal.

     Anthony Pellicano was already a long-time employee of pop icon Michael Jackson when the scandal broke in 1993 that a teen-aged boy was accusing Jackson of molesting him. From the outset, Pellicano was Jackson�s public mouthpiece, alleging that this was a case of extortion on the part of the father of the child, who was seeking custody of his son amidst a bitter divorce proceeding. Some of those following the case, most notably journalist Diane Dimond of the television program HARD COPY, would then allege that their phones had been tapped and that they had been the victims of an intimidation campaign allegedly run by Anthony Pellicano.

     With the dawn of the new Millennium came the investigation into the Gambino Mafia Family that would inevitably lead to Pellicano�s downfall. The Feds in New York indicted "Red"Scollo, the President of Local 1814 of the Longshoremen�s Union, along with Peter Gotti, brother of former Gambino Family Godfather John Gotti, Richard Gotti, Anthony Ciccone, and 13 other alleged members of the Gambino Family on charges that included racketeering, extortion, illegal gambling operations, and money laundering, all committed as part of the Mafia's corrupt influence over Local 1814 and Local 1 of the International Longshoremen's Union. The indictment mentioned the extortion of "an individual in the film industry," which would later turn out to be action star Steven Seagal.

     To many observers of this case, the bizarre events that have transpired since these indictments were handed down would rival any plot line in a typical Steven Seagal motion picture. Just weeks after the Federal charges, two reporters, Anita Busch of the Los Angeles Times and Ned Zeman of Vanity Fair Magazine lodged complaints with law enforcement officials that they were being threatened by persons unknown as they pursued their investigations of Seagal and his association with members of the American Mafia. Zeman then published a scathing indictment of Seagal in Vanity Fair with the help of Seagal�s �nemesis,� investigative reporter John Connolly, a retired NYPD Detective who has written extensively about Seagal in SPY and PENTHOUSE Magazines.

     However, the Vanity Fair article also noted that Seagal, unlike his former business partner Julius Nasso, had not been charged with a crime. Julius Nasso pleaded guilty to his attempt to extort money from Steven Seagal and has now served his prison sentence. Nasso, who helped bring to the screen the Seagal flicks 'Marked for Death,' 'Out for Justice,' 'Under Siege 2,' and 'Fire Down Below,' now has his own film production company based on Staten Island, New York.

     Nasso, however, may someday find stiff competition: Anthony Pellicano, it should be noted, has not wasted his time in prison during the last couple of years, and has been reported to be working on at least one book and screenplay based on his life experiences, including his intimate interactions with some of the most famous - and infamous - Hollywood icons of the latter part of the 20th Century. Many of Hollywood�s �movers and shakers� are said to be trembling in fear at the prospect of being exposed one day in: "ANTHONY PELLICANO�S HOLLYWOOD CONFIDENTIAL."

to be continued..

Related Features:

The 'On The Waterfront' Trials
Part Five: Hollywood Investigations Continue

J. R. de Szigethy can be reached at:

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