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Pellicano case linked to FBI agent

Glover is a Times staff writer.

A veteran FBI agent has been accused of illegally accessing computers at bureau headquarters in Washington, D.C., in what prosecutors suspect was a failed bid to help Hollywood private eye Anthony Pellicano defend himself against federal racketeering and wiretapping charges, according to court documents and a source familiar with the case.

Mark T. Rossini, a charismatic and popular agent who once worked in the bureau’s press office, was charged Monday with criminally accessing FBI computers on five occasions from January through July of last year, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. Each of the charges is a misdemeanor.

Rossini allegedly was accessing the computers to find information that may have been helpful to Pellicano, who was tried and convicted of wiretapping and racketeering earlier this year in Los Angeles, said the source, who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the case.

Prosecutors suspect that Rossini conducted the searches at the behest of his girlfriend, actress Linda Fiorentino, who has ties to Pellicano, the source said.

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An attempt to reach Fiorentino for comment was unsuccessful.

Adam S. Hoffinger, a lawyer in Washington who represents Rossini, declined to comment.

Attorney Michael Artan, who represented Pellicano, denied that the agent did anything at Pellicano’s request.

“We had no knowledge about anything this agent was or was not doing,” Artan said. “Nobody even knew Rossini.”

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Artan said Pellicano and Fiorentino were nothing more than “pen pals” who occasionally exchanged letters.

He said he didn’t think the two had ever met in person. He said he did not know how their correspondence began.

At least one of the allegedly illegal computer searches appears to be related to an FBI report that was at issue in the months before Pellicano’s trial.

The report -- leaked to Pellicano’s defense team -- detailed a confidential informant’s allegations that a warrant used to search the private investigator’s Sunset Boulevard office was based on bogus information.

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Defense attorneys wanted to know why prosecutors had not turned over the report, and the judge wanted more information about how the defense had obtained it in the first place.

Assistant U.S. Atty. Daniel Saunders, one of the prosecutors on the case, stated in court at the time that there were notable differences between the official report in the possession of prosecutors and the one that was provided to the defense, raising questions about whether one copy was a draft and the other the final version.

Artan, the lawyer who represented Pellicano, said that he was questioned by prosecutors in the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington, D.C., about how he had obtained the report and that he told them that he didn’t know where it came from.

He said he now assumes that questioning was part of the probe into Rossini.

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But according to a transcript of a hearing in March 2007 when U.S. District Court Judge Dale Fischer asked Artan if the document had been sent anonymously, he replied, “No.”

He added, “I would be happy to tell you in camera.”

Asked about the inconsistency, Artan said he was surprised by his response in the transcript.

He said he recalled having some inkling at the time as to who may have sent it but that he did not know then and does not know now who the source was.

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The lawyer declined to say who he suspected may have provided the document.

Pellicano was found guilty this spring of more than 70 counts of racketeering, wiretapping and conspiracy. He is awaiting sentencing.

The charges against Rossini were initially reported Tuesday by www.ticklethewire.com, a website that specializes in federal law enforcement news.

Rossini, who reportedly resigned from the FBI in the wake of the allegations, is expected to appear in court Monday.

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scott.glover@latimes.com


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