A nanny grows disillusioned with her employer — Canada's richest woman — and helps the woman's rival in a child custody fight.
A Beverly Hills couple goes through a bitter divorce that provides an opening for a convicted swindler to gain control of their business and real estate empire, once worth $40 million.
Three more soap operas that played out in Southern California courts. Three more disputes to destroy people's reputations and livelihoods, if not their lives. And three more cases bearing the fingerprints of Anthony Pellicano, the bat-wielding private detective who promised his clients, "Your problem becomes my problem."
The 61-year-old Pellicano is dealing with his own problems these days. He just finished a 2 1/2 -year prison term for possessing illegal explosives. Now he faces a federal racketeering indictment accusing him of bribing police and using illegal wiretaps to dig up dirt on those he was paid handsomely to investigate — charges that he denies.
Although initial reports have focused on the boldface names on the list of his alleged victims — such as actor Sylvester Stallone, comedian Garry Shandling and CAA talent agents — the indictment and other court records provide evidence that Pellicano also used his police contacts and eavesdropping skills against individuals who were hardly power players on the Hollywood scene, or any scene.
The nanny, the novice lawyer and the businessman all complained long before Pellicano's indictment that they felt overwhelmed in a legal system that was supposed to guarantee them a fair fight, but in which their deep-pocketed adversaries sometimes seemed to know their next move ahead of time, as if they were mind readers. All told their lawyers they thought their phones might have been tapped — and one screamed it to anyone who would listen, to no avail.
He and the others were dismissed at times as paranoid, if not "looney-tunes." They sometimes couldn't be sure themselves whether their suspicions were true or only their imaginations at work.
Even if there had been no Anthony Pellicano, it is likely that all three still would have become obsessed with the legal disputes that threatened them with ruin on the one hand while promising redemption on the other. Even with last week's unsealing of the 110-count indictment against Pellicano and six others, and the indictment Wednesday of a Hollywood attorney who employed Pellicano, there's much they don't know. But part of their obsession now is making sure there's a price to pay for the people who allegedly crushed them with the help of the detective who once said, "I only use intimidation and fear when I absolutely have to."
Pamela Miller was the daughter of a Pennsylvania steelworker and though her father worked his way up to being foreman of his plant, she was not prepared for the wealth she witnessed as a high-end nanny.
Miller stumbled into the career while a student at Temple University, when a couple needed help with their children one summer. Though it might sound like servant's work to some, Miller liked looking after youngsters. The money wasn't bad, either, if you were educated, attractive and English-speaking, and could put up with the quirks of rich folk like the woman who became her boss after she moved west in 2001.
Her job with Taylor Thomson paid $70,000 a year. Thomson was the daughter of Canadian media mogul Kenneth Thomson, who published 70 newspapers, including the Toronto Globe and Mail, and had an English title, Lord Thomson of Fleet. The family's wealth was estimated by Forbes at $14.9 billion in 2002, and Taylor Thomson's share was enough to place her 159th on one ranking of the world's richest women.
Tall and elegant, like her mother, a former Miss Toronto, Thomson could have been a jet-set celebrity. But she kept a low profile except for an occasional mention in the news, as when she sued an English marquess and Christie's auction house for selling her a pair of gilded Louis XV urns she alleged were fakes. Thomson was said to be intrigued by Los Angeles, where she had aspirations of becoming an actress or filmmaker.
Not many Hollywood wannabes can plunk down $7.4 million for a home in Bel-Air, as Thomson did in 2001. That's when she also needed a nanny for her infant girl, Madeleine, and found Miller. The Pennsylvanian had come to California to be close to her parents, who had retired to Palm Springs, and had signed on with a Santa Monica agency that provided nannies to the elite.
After a two-week spring tryout, Miller was given the job that September, with one condition: that she sign a confidentiality agreement. The document, filed among court papers when the two later started suing each other, barred the nanny from disseminating "any information" related to Thomson, her daughter or the Thomson businesses, or any photographs, films or videos — understandable precautions for a parent who had to worry that her child could be kidnapped.
But Miller later found it ironic that someone who would hire Pellicano would include a prohibition on her sharing anything she might pick up "by overhearing conversations on the telephone or otherwise."
Miller also was given seven pages of instructions, those too now filed in court, for caring for Madeleine. They stretched from 7 a.m. breakfast preparation, "Either fruit smoothie (consisting of a banana, blueberries, papaya, kiwi, pineapple, and a 1/2 of an avocado — for two people) or fruit salad," to 8:30 p.m., when she would put on the baby's nighttime diaper, read her a bedtime story, sing a lullaby and "clean all toys the dog has had that day."
Thomson wanted her daughter sheltered from the sun "at all times," with an umbrella if necessary, and specified that when they traveled the girl's toy bag include a stuffed animal named Jean, a "cream bunny with pink ribbon."