Hollywood celebrity detective indicted for racketeering

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The Independent US

Anthony Pellicano, once the most famous and most feared private eye in Hollywood, has been slapped with a 110-count criminal indictment in which he and six others are accused of running the entertainment industry like an illegal racket - intimidating and blackmailing adversaries, conspiring to wiretap dozens of celebrities and putting pliant police officers on his payroll.

For more than 20 years, Mr Pellicano developed a reputation as a ruthless operator, representing clients from John DeLorean, the car magnate, to Michael Jackson. That all unravelled three years ago, when federal investigators raided his Sunset Boulevard offices and found hand grenades and military plastic explosive in a safe - leading to an illegal weapons charge and a 30-month prison sentence.

More significantly, officers seized Mr Pellicano's computers and other office equipment and set about discovering how exactly he had earned his living. The conclusion of their three-year investigation, as set out in the indictment, was that he tapped phones and used his police contacts to dig up confidential law enforcement files on behalf of his clients. His targets included agents, business managers, studio executives, entertainment reporters and actors such as Sylvester Stallone and the comedian Garry Shandling.

Mr Pellicano, who completed his illegal weapons sentence last Friday and was immediately transferred to federal custody, pleaded not guilty to the 60-page list of racketeering and conspiracy charges. He was denied bail pending trial.

The Pellicano affair has played out like a sleazy LA noir thriller and held Hollywood in a fascinated grip - not least because nobody knows where the rot might stop. The figure most glaringly in the spotlight is the veteran entertainment lawyer Bert Fields, a pillar of the Hollywood community who used Mr Pellicano as an investigator for years. Both Stallone and Shandling were in litigation with Fields clients, as were several lesser figures also named in the indictment as Pellicano targets.

Mr Fields has not been charged but remains a subject of investigation, as he has been for the past three years. Mr Pellicano's co-defendants comprise three clients accused of hiring him to tap other people's phones and three associates, including a former Los Angeles police sergeant and two telecommunications experts accused of developing and deploying a custom-made wiretapping software programme called Telesleuth. A Beverly Hills police officer also accused of accessing confidential crime files on Mr Pellicano's behalf pleaded guilty three weeks ago to violating government secrecy rules.

The FBI had raided Mr Pellicano's offices after a street thug told police in 2002 that he had been hired by the private eye to threaten a journalist.