A federal grand jury on Wednesday indicted the owner of a charter jet company and an associate on charges stemming from the alleged bugging of a plane that carried pop singer Michael Jackson from Las Vegas to Santa Barbara in 2003 to surrender on child-molestation charges.
According to the indictment, the Gulfstream jet was outfitted with concealed camcorders and remote microphones purchased from a store that sold "spy" equipment. The men planned to sell footage of the pop star, who was acquitted earlier this year, to a television network, the indictment says.
Charged with conspiracy and attempting to intercept private communications were Jeffrey Borer, owner of Santa Monica-based XtraJet, a charter company, and Arvell J. Reeves, owner of Executive Aviation Logistics in Chino, an aircraft maintenance firm. Reeves is also accused of witness tampering during an FBI investigation.
The surreptitious taping came to light in November 2003, when Fox News disclosed that it had been approached by a private party interested in selling tapes of Jackson aboard the jet.
The network said staffers had viewed the tapes without audio and that they showed the entertainer appearing calm, smiling and laughing during the flight.
Borer subsequently confirmed that his company had contacted several television networks to explore the possibility of selling the Jackson tapes. He said at the time that the tapes were found aboard the aircraft after the flight. He said the company did not know who was responsible for making them.
The indictment accuses the pair of joining in a conspiracy in which Borer was to provide the aircraft to ferry Jackson and Jackson's then-lawyer, Mark Geragos, while Reeves bought and installed the recording equipment.
Afterward, Borer was to take charge of contacting various media outlets to find a buyer, the indictment says. Reeves allegedly installed two color "pinhole" cameras in the aircraft's passenger cabin and placed microphones between the seats.
Once news of the tapes broke, the FBI launched an investigation. As suspicion fell on him in April 2004, Reeves tried to get a subordinate to fabricate a story about the devices, the indictment alleges.
Assistant U.S. Atty. Andrew Cowan said both men would be summoned to appear for arraignment in the coming weeks. The defendants' attorneys could not be reached for comment.