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Key Player in Capitol Sting Placed on Paid Leave by Senate Committee

Times Staff Writer

John Shahabian, the Senate staff member who has played a central role as an informant in the FBI’s Capitol sting operation, was placed Wednesday on a paid administrative leave for an indefinite period, according to a spokesman for the Senate Rules Committee.

Shahabian will be paid his regular salary of $5,602 a month while not working as the result of a “mutual agreement” between the FBI informant and the Rules Committee, said Bob Forsyth, a spokesman for Senate President Pro Tem David A. Roberti (D-Los Angeles).

Cliff Berg, chief executive officer of the Rules Committee, said the five-member panel granted the leave in closed session. He said he is aware of no other instance in which the committee has granted a paid administrative leave.

No official reasons were given for the leave although it seemed likely that some legislators may well have felt uncomfortable working with an aide who had turned FBI informant.

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Shahabian’s attorney, Donald Heller, said his client’s leave from his job as a consultant to the Senate Elections Committee will last until the federal investigation is completed.

“All I can say is that it was mutually agreed to,” Heller said. “I’m satisfied he was treated fairly. When it’s all over, he will go back.”

Shahabian was working for then-Sen. Paul Carpenter, a Norwalk Democrat, in August of 1986 when he was caught up in the FBI sting. Shahabian was implicated while soliciting contributions for Carpenter’s campaign fund from a phony shrimp-processing company established by the FBI, according to sources close to the investigation.

In the fall of 1987, Shahabian was confronted by federal agents who showed him enlarged pictures of himself meeting with undercover agents and explained what penalties he could face if he were convicted of extorting money in exchange for legislative favors.

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Shahabian agreed to cooperate and during the next 10 months carried a hidden microphone as he arranged meetings between legislators and FBI agents posing as businessmen. At least 13 figures in the investigation--including six legislators--appear on audio and video tapes gathered by the FBI during the probe, according to sources familiar with the investigation.

In addition to Carpenter, who serves on the Board of Equalization, four legislators have been implicated in the investigation. They are Sen. Joseph P. Montoya (D-Whittier), Assembly Republican Leader Pat Nolan of Glendale, and Assembly members Frank Hill (R-Whittier) and Gwen Moore (D-Los Angeles).

A federal grand jury in Sacramento has been hearing evidence in the case for several weeks, but no charges have been filed against anyone as a result of the investigation.

Times staff writer Paul Jacobs contributed to this story.


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