Pop superstar Michael Jackson is the subject of a criminal investigation that a private investigator says stemmed from allegations that were made against the singer after he refused to pay extortion money.
Los Angeles Police Cmdr. David Gascon confirmed that the investigation began a week ago but declined to elaborate. Suzanne Childs, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County district attorney's office, said police had discussed the matter with prosecutors, but she refused to disclose details.
Anthony Pellicano, a private investigator who works for Jackson and many other celebrities, said the investigation centered around a complaint made to public children's services officials after "an extortion attempt gone awry."
Pellicano refused to discuss the nature of the allegations. He declined to say who made the extortion demands or who filed the complaint with childrens services officials. He also failed to make clear which child protection agency was involved.
Police searched Jackson's homes--a condominium in Century City and a ranch near the Santa Ynez Valley hamlet of Los Olivos--on Saturday, according to Pellicano. What the police were seeking and whether anything was recovered from either home was not made clear.
Jackson is in Thailand, where he is launching his "Dangerous" world tour with concerts today and Wednesday. Courtney Barnes, a spokesman for the entertainer's publicity office in Los Angeles, declined comment Monday.
There was a worldwide surge of publicity surrounding the case after KNBC Channel 4 aired the first reports about 5 p.m. Monday. Without naming sources, KNBC said the allegations against Jackson were made by a woman who claims that her child was abused at one of the entertainer's homes.
At a news conference Monday night, Gascon said Police Chief Willie L. Williams is "very concerned that the investigation is done objectively and with absolute fairness to everyone involved."
Gascon said the investigation is in its "early stages" and no arrest warrants have been issued.
He said LAPD detectives "have met with cooperation throughout the course of the investigation," and Pellicano said the singer "is going to cooperate with police in every way."
"People are always trying to extort him for all kinds of reasons because he's a superstar," Pellicano said. "I have worked for Michael Jackson for many years and have gone through many of these.
"This one just happened to have gone too far. Michael is probably one of the most kind and decent men I've ever met, and this is horrible.
"I can't say who is doing this, but you can guess why--this all started out with money," the private investigator said. "They just kept trying to get money from us, and when we wouldn't pay, someone called (a public child protection agency)."
Contributing to this story was Times researcher Nona Yates.