In the latest chapter of a still-unfolding investigation, FBI agents have quietly arrested a former music industry executive in connection with the wiretap and conspiracy prosecution of former Hollywood private investigator Anthony Pellicano.
Robert Joseph Pfeifer, 50, once president of Disney-owned Hollywood Records, was taken into custody Friday afternoon and held at the Metropolitan Detention Center in downtown Los Angeles, sources close to the investigation said Saturday. The sources added that more people could be charged by Monday, when authorities are expected to unseal a federal indictment against Pellicano and others.
Although the charges against Pfeifer could not be learned, his estranged wife in court documents said he was a longtime friend of Pellicano and had known for two years that he was a subject of the investigation into the detectives’ activities.
As part of a custody battle, Maria Misejova Pfeifer filed a sworn declaration alleging that Pfeifer had fled to Canada last September because he believed that an indictment was imminent.
Because of Pfeifer’s “investigation by the FBI and his affiliation with Mr. Pellicano,” Pfeifer “has contemplated and threatened to flee the jurisdiction in the past,” she said in her Jan. 16 declaration.
She went on to refer to an e-mail in which Pfeifer allegedly stated: “Hypothetically, I am assuming I will not have the money to fight this if it escalates; I am not going to jail. You see me. I wouldn’t last a night. I have two alternatives then to run or commit suicide " The date of the e-mail is not clear from the documents.
Also filed in the custody case was a partial e-mail from Pfeifer’s attorney referring to the possibility that Pfeifer would be indicted for conspiracy, illegal wiretapping, computer fraud and obstruction of justice. The e-mail was dated July 2004 and addressed to the two federal prosecutors overseeing the Pellicano case.
Pellicano, who had been serving a 30-month sentence on illegal explosives charges, was transferred from a federal prison near Bakersfield to the San Bernardino County Jail on Friday in anticipation of his arraignment Monday.
The more than three-year investigation has shaken entertainment and legal circles because the 61-year-old private investigator over the years had worked on behalf of some of Hollywood’s biggest celebrities, including Michael Jackson and Elizabeth Taylor, as well as its most prominent attorneys.
His new attorney, Steven Gruel, said Saturday that Pellicano would not testify against others, including former clients.
“It is my firm belief that Mr. Pellicano is adamant in his determination not to cooperate with the federal prosecution,” Gruel said.
A former federal prosecutor in San Francisco, Gruel said he first met Pellicano a decade ago when the private investigator was called as a government witness to refute allegations that the FBI had fabricated an audiotape recording to frame an Asian organized crime figure.
“He was the best witness I ever had in 16 years as a prosecutor,” Gruel said. “Without question.”
Neither Pfeifer nor his attorney, Leonard Sharenow, could be reached for comment Saturday.
But just hours before Pfeifer’s arrest, Sharenow had denied that his client had been involved in any illegal activity. Contacted for comment about the allegations in Maria Pfeifer’s court papers, Sharenow said Pfeifer had not spoken to authorities since a July 2004 meeting with federal prosecutors and the FBI.
“Originally, they referred to him as a subject. We had a meeting. And that was the last of it,” Sharenow said.
“As far as I know, this matter is completely dead with regard to Mr. Pfeifer.”
A former musician and producer, Pfeifer was a member of the early 1980s band Human Switchboard, which recorded an album for I.R.S. Records, according to published reports. He was president of Hollywood Records from 1994 to 1997. Before joining Disney, he worked as an artist and repertoire executive at Epic Records, a division of Sony. In 2000, he founded the multimedia company Segnana Inc.
Hollywood Records was sued for sexual harassment in 1995, during Pfeifer’s tenure. The suit was settled out of court.
In an interview last week, Maria Pfeifer claimed that her ex-husband and Pellicano had been friends for years and that Pfeifer referred to the flamboyant private eye as his godfather. Before Pellicano’s arrest in 2003, Pfeifer had twice hired the private investigator in connection with civil lawsuits, she said.
Maria Pfeifer also claimed that she saw the investigator and Pfeifer in Pellicano’s sport utility vehicle several times wearing headsets and listening to tape recordings.
The federal investigation of Pellicano began in the fall of 2002 as a probe of a threat against a Los Angeles Times reporter. In searches of his Sunset Boulevard offices, the FBI recovered grenades and explosives that led to the 30-month federal prison sentence.
Three weeks ago, former Beverly Hills Police Officer Craig Stevens and Pellicano’s onetime girlfriend, Sandra Will Carradine, pleaded guilty to lying about Pellicano’s use of illegal tactics.
Contributing to this report were Times staff writer Chuck Philips and research librarian Robin Mayper.