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Bay Area divorce lawyer indicted in alleged eavesdropping scheme

A Bay Area divorce lawyer has been indicted in connection with a scheme to plant eavesdropping devices in the cars of her clients’ spouses, federal prosecutors announced Tuesday.

Mary Nolan, the San Ramon lawyer, hired Christopher Butler, a private investigator, to install the listening equipment to help her clients in divorce and child custody cases, according to a six-count indictment made public Tuesday.

Butler has admitted that he arranged for beautiful women — he called them “decoys"— to ply the husbands of Nolan’s clients and others with alcohol. Once the women got the men behind the wheel, Butler called police to report they were driving under the influence.

The arrests were then used against the men in custody and divorce proceedings. The indictment did not allege that Nolan was involved in what law enforcement calls “dirty DUI” stings, but said she arranged for her clients to hire Butler to “unlawfully intercept wire, oral and electronic communications.”

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On several occasions, Nolan and her staff listened to the secretly recorded conversations in hopes of finding evidence that would help her clients, according to the indictment.

Nolan also was indicted on charges of tax evasion. Federal prosecutors said she failed to report $1.8 million in income from 2005 to 2008 and evaded taxes of about $574,769.

The tax evasion charge and wiretapping counts each carry a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Nolan, 60, could not be reached for comment. U.S. Atty. Melinda Haag said Nolan was arrested Tuesday at her home in Oakland and was to be released on bail. An IRS spokeswoman declined to elaborate on the indictment.

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Declan Woods, whose ex-wife hired Nolan in their divorce, was one of a handful of men arrested on suspicion of DUI as a result of Butler’s stings. Woods’ conviction was later thrown out.

“Justice!” Woods said, when informed of Nolan’s indictment. “Finally.”

The East Bay contractor said he did not believe that his car was bugged but intends to prove in a civil lawsuit that Nolan hired Butler to set him up in the 2007 sting. The lawsuit, which is pending, names Nolan, Butler, one of the female decoys and Woods’ ex-wife as defendants.

Butler has pleaded guilty to conspiracy and other charges and awaits sentencing.

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maura.dolan@latimes.com


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