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Pellicano Wiretap Record Surfaces
Federal officials alleged in court documents obtained Friday that they have retrieved specific evidence from the computers of former Hollywood private investigator Anthony Pellicano showing he intercepted the telephone calls of unsuspecting victims.
The disclosure adds a new though long-suspected dimension, to the more than 3-year-old investigation of Pellicano, who was indicted this month on charges of wiretapping and racketeering.
He is accused of directing a conspiracy aimed at blackmailing and intimidating dozens of celebrities and business executives, including actor Sylvester Stallone, comedian Garry Shandling and real estate developer Robert Maguire.
In a sworn affidavit reviewed by The Times on Friday, FBI Agent Stanley Ornellas said a one-page document retrieved from the private eye's office summarizes an August 2000 telephone call involving the ex-girlfriend of Pellicano client Robert Pfeifer, a former music executive.
The document, according to Ornellas' declaration, is "only one of many" recovered from the private investigator's computers during a court-authorized search in late 2002. And two sources close to the investigation said Friday that authorities have retrieved other such summaries prepared for additional clients of Pellicano.
To date, Pellicano and a dozen others also have been charged in the case, including prominent Los Angeles entertainment attorney Terry N. Christensen, who is accused of paying Pellicano $100,000 to eavesdrop on the phone calls of billionaire Kirk Kerkorian's ex-wife.
In that case, authorities allege, Pellicano tape-recorded conversations between himself and Christensen that prove they conspired to wiretap Lisa Bonder Kerkorian during a nasty child custody battle with her former husband. Christensen, like Pellicano, has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The latest allegation involving onetime music executive Pfeifer goes to the heart of the far more sweeping use of illegal wiretapping methods by Pellicano that are only outlined in the grand jury's 112-count indictment.
In his affidavit, Ornellas said the summary retrieved from Pellicano's computer is only one of an unknown number recovered from his offices that summarize calls between Pfeifer's ex-girlfriend, Erin Finn, and others. And those summaries, combined with testimony of Pellicano's former employees and others, establish that Pellicano wiretapped Finn at Pfeifer's behest, the agent alleged.
The document describes in great detail a conversation between Finn and a friend in which she, among other things, alleges that Pfeifer offered her $100,000 to not give a deposition in a court case. The purported summary of her conversation also has her talking about trying to find work, alleged threats against her by Pfeifer and the hope of someday moving to Venice, Italy.
The document ends cryptically with this notation: "At the end of the call, both parties hear a 'click' and become concerned that Erin's phone might be tapped."
Ornellas could not be reached for comment.
Pellicano's attorney, Steven Gruel, said Friday he was unaware of the document.
Pfeifer's attorney, Leonard Sharenow, said he only learned of the alleged summary when it was presented in federal court by Assistant U.S. Atty. Daniel Saunders as part of a successful government motion to hold Pfeifer in custody without bail.
"This is the first time I have seen the allegation that they have recordings or summaries of Erin Finn," Sharenow said, adding that his client also had never seen the document.
The disclosure comes as authorities are pressing their investigation, and new individuals could be charged as early as next week.
Much of the attention has focused on some of the attorneys — including well-known entertainment lawyer Bert Fields — who most frequently used Pellicano as a private investigator on behalf of celebrity clients.
In recent weeks, authorities have had a number of conversations with attorneys representing Fields and others whose use of Pellicano has come under scrutiny of investigators.
But those conversations, while important, are not extraordinary given the scope of the government's inquiry, said attorney Brian Sun, representing the Century City law firm of Greenburg, Glusker, Fields, Claman, Machtinger and Kinsella, where Fields is a senior partner.
"There is nothing unusual or newsworthy about our responding to — and communicating with — the government in this case," said Sun. "It is part of the process and part of an ongoing discussion.
"And we continue to cooperate with the government because we too wish for a resolution of this matter, given the intense and sometimes misleading media coverage that has resulted from this case."
Prosecutor Saunders could not be reached for comment.