Update: Burbank officer makes bail, leaves federal custody

A Burbank police officer and his girlfriend were released from federal custody Wednesday following their arrests on charges of lying to federal authorities during an investigation into an alleged extortion scheme involving the woman and her estranged husband.

The officer, Anthony Valento, 42, and his girlfriend, Gayle Bassett, 30 — who are both married with children — are accused of lying to the FBI during an investigation of the alleged extortion plot against Bassett’s husband, Jeremy Bassett. Gayle Bassett has filed for divorce, while Anthony Valento's wife stated in court documents that she is in the process of doing so.


FOR THE RECORD: An earlier version of this story said both the Valentos and Bassetts are engaged in divorce procedings. In fact, only the Bassets are. The current version also clarifies the charges. 


On Wednesday, a judge ordered Valento and Gayle Bassett to stay out of contact with each other, as well as with Jeremy Bassett. 

The pair are due back in court next month. Federal prosecutors have not ruled out filing additional charges, an FBI spokesperson said. 

Both Valento and Gayle Bassett told the FBI in August they were not dating or living together, though the investigation revealed otherwise, court documents stated. According to the documents, Valento supports Gayle Bassett — who works as a cycling instructor at a spin studio — and her children financially. 

Valento reportedly paid for her breast augmentation procedure, her daughter’s dental appointment, and co-signed a lease with her on a Kia Sorento SUV. 

A 17-year veteran of the Burbank Police Department, Valento allegedly told Jeremy Bassett in April that if he paid Gayle Bassett more than $100,000, Valento could get pending domestic violence charges against him reduced or dropped, according to a federal criminal complaint and affidavit.

Jeremy Bassett’s pending criminal case stems from a September 2012 incident in which he allegedly threw a bottle at Gayle Bassett, choked her and threw her to the ground, the document said. 

On July 25, Jeremy Bassett reported the alleged extortion to the FBI and agreed to record a series of conversations between himself and the couple.

Two days later, in recorded phone conversations, Valento allegedly told Jeremy Bassett that if the husband did not “make a deal” with Gayle Bassett to the tune of between $100,000 and $200,000, “she’s going to go full out with the (district attorney).”

“She’s willing to negotiate, I know that,” Valento said, according to the document.

Meanwhile, Burbank internal affairs investigators had been conducting a parallel investigation into Valento’s performance, initially without knowing about the FBI’s involvement. 

In May, a Burbank police lieutenant suspected Valento was neglecting his police duties, based on his delayed response to two calls for service. Investigators subsequently discovered that Valento had disabled the GPS device on his patrol car during several shifts.

On 13 work days between June 10 and July 31, Valento misrepresented his whereabouts for nearly 24 hours, according to the document. The investigation revealed his car was parked outside Gayle Bassett's Burbank home during these hours. 

Valento allegedly falsified traffic stops during those times as well.

Meanwhile, according to his brother-in-law, Valento has spent little time with his three children and has left his family in financial hardship. 

Valento moved out of the home in February or March, although he still pays the mortgage, according to court documents.

“(Valento) stops at the house when nobody is home to pick up various things, he has very little contact with the kids,” his brother-in-law, Jeffery Pinnow, said during a phone interview. “He’s basically just moved on and adopted Gayle’s family as his own.”

Valento and Gayle Bassett were released from federal custody after posting $25,000 and $20,000 bail, respectively. Upon leaving court, Gayle Bassett declined to comment on the allegations.

Valento was released to reside with his father, Joseph Valento, a retired Burbank police captain who spent 32 years with the department. Joseph Valento said Wednesday that he had not yet read the complaint against his son and therefore had no comment on the allegations. 

-- Alene Tchekmedyian, alene.tchekmedyian@latimes.com

Follow on Google+ and on Twitter: @atchek.


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