LAWFUEL – Legal Announcements – Former Private Eye Engaged in Widespread Wiretapping Activities and
Trafficking in Data Illegally Taken from Law Enforcement Databases
Former private investigator Anthony Pellicano and two associates were found guilty today of federal racketeering charges for participating in a criminal enterprise in which Pellicano paid tens of thousands of dollars to police officers in exchange for confidential law enforcement information on numerous individuals who were being investigated by Pellicano.
A federal jury today also found that Pellicano and others were involved in the installation of wiretaps on the phones of numerous individuals whom Pellicano had been hired to investigate.
Concluding an 11-week trial in United States District Court in Los Angeles, a federal jury in Los Angeles found Pellicano guilty of 76 counts, including violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) Act, committing “honest services” mail fraud by paying a police officer for confidential information, identity theft and wiretapping.
The defendants found guilty of participating in the racketeering enterprise are:
Anthony Pellicano, 64, who operated the Pellicano Investigative Agency on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood;
Mark Arneson, 54, of Culver City , who retired from the Los Angeles Police Department in October 2003 after 29 years on the force; and
Rayford Earl Turner, 51, of Van Nuys, a former field technician for SBC and Pacific Bell.
The jury returned guilty verdicts on two racketeering charges – violating the RICO Act and conspiring to violate the RICO Act – finding that Pellicano, Arneson and Turner comprised a criminal enterprise, the goal of which was to profit and to use illegally obtained information to benefit Pellicano’s reputation and investigative business. The enterprise generated income by illegally obtaining confidential information about investigative targets and providing this information to clients of Pellicano’s investigative agency. Arneson and Beverly Hills Police Officer Craig Stevens, who previously pleaded guilty and testified at trial, played key roles in the enterprise by providing Pellicano with confidential DMV and criminal history information that was not available outside of law enforcement. Turner and fellow SBC employee Teresa Wright, who previously pleaded guilty, provided confidential and proprietary information on telephone company subscribers.
Pellicano and Turner were also found guilty of participating in a wiretapping conspiracy. One other defendant was found guilty of participating in that conspiracy. He is Kevin Kachikian, 43, of Fountain Valley, who developed the “Telesleuth” wiretapping software program for Pellicano. As part of the wiretapping conspiracy, Pellicano, with the help of Turner and Kachikian, illegally intercepted telephone communications of a number of individuals. Kachikian began developing the Telesleuth software program in 1995. As early as 1997, Pellicano – with the aid of Turner, who provided proprietary telephone company information that allowed the wiretapping – was illegally listening to phone calls of people such as actor Sylvester Stallone and journalist Anita Busch.
Additionally, Abner Nicherie, 44, of Las Vegas, Nevada, was found guilty of aiding and abetting Pellicano in the wiretapping of Ami Shafrir, with whom Nicherie had a business dispute.
All five defendants convicted today are scheduled to be sentenced by United States District Judge Dale S. Fischer on September 24.
Prior to the sentencing, the court will hold a hearing on the government’s allegation that Pellicano, Arneson and Turner should forfeit to the government more than $2 million that was collected as the result of the criminal enterprise.
“This case exposed a widespread criminal scheme that included paying bribes to sworn law enforcement officers so that Pellicano could violate the privacy rights of other individuals,” said United States Attorney Thomas P. O’Brien. “Besides lining the pockets of the defendants, this scheme was designed to subvert justice and to give litigants an unfair advantage in court.”
Salvador Hernandez, Assistant Director In Charge of the FBI in Los Angeles, stated: “This lengthy investigation uncovered corruption on many levels, including within law enforcement and among individuals who obtained information illegally and exploited the justice system for financial gain, but also for power and influence. Today’s guilty verdict served justice for many victims, and vindicated the investigators and prosecutors who endured unfair attacks on their credibility throughout the course of this case.”
Both of the RICO charges in the indictment carry prison sentences of up to 20 years in prison. The wiretapping conspiracy carries a potential sentence of five years. The “honest services” wire fraud counts carry a maximum penalty of five years for offenses committed before July 30, 2002, and up to 20 years in prison for offenses that occurred on or after that date. The remaining counts in the indictment all have maximum sentences of five years in prison.
There are two pending charges in this case. Pellicano and attorney Terry Christensen still face conspiracy and wiretapping charges. They are scheduled to go to trial on July 15.
This case is the result of an ongoing investigation being conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
CONTACT: Assistant United States Attorney Daniel A. Saunders
Assistant United States Attorney Kevin M. Lally
Release No. 08-064