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Anthony Pellicano Back on the Griddle

Los Angeles- Former private investigator Anthony Pellicano will be returned to Los Angeles from a federal prison near Bakersfield as early as today to face new charges that he and others illegally used wiretaps and confidential law enforcement records to help his clients, sources said Thursday.

The transfer of Pellicano to local federal custody comes as authorities prepare for the release of grand jury indictments resulting from more than three years of investigation by the FBI, said the sources, who refused to be identified because of the continuing criminal probe. The indictments could be announced as soon as Monday, they said.

The investigation, though focused on the flamboyant private eye, has rocked Los Angeles’ legal and entertainment communities because Pellicano for years had worked on behalf of some of the biggest names in both fields.

In recent weeks, according to sources, authorities have zeroed in on a handful of Pellicano clients and associates as potential accomplices in his long-suspected use of illegal tactics. Those people include former Los Angeles Police Sgt. Mark Arneson and Ray Turner, a former Pacific Bell employee, said the sources, who did not rule out the possibility that others also would be charged in the case.

Attorneys advising Arneson and Turner declined to comment Thursday.

Pellicano could not be reached for comment. The 61-year-old private investigator has been serving a 30-month sentence at the Taft Correctional Institution after pleading guilty to federal charges of storing hand grenades and plastic explosives in his Sunset Strip offices.

His former legal team in the explosives case had no comment on the possibility that he would face new charges.

The investigation, directed by the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles, began in November 2002 when FBI agents raided Pellicano’s offices for evidence that he had been involved in a threat against a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, Anita Busch. A dead fish, a rose and a sign reading “Stop” had been placed on the windshield of her car. Pellicano still faces state charges in connection with that case.

During the 2002 raid, and one that followed two months later, records and interviews show, the FBI hauled away voluminous computerized records containing alleged evidence of wiretaps and other illegal acts. The evidence provided a road map for investigators who pored over countless pages of documents and conducted hundreds of interviews with clients and potential victims of Pellicano.

The first public charges resulting from the wiretap probe were disclosed three weeks ago, when former Beverly Hills Police Officer Craig Stevens and Pellicano’s onetime girlfriend, Sandra Will Carradine, pleaded guilty to lying about the detective’s use of wiretaps and other illegal tactics. Both are scheduled for sentencing in the fall.

Stevens’ guilty plea provided the first official link between Pellicano and the law firm of one of Los Angeles’ best-known entertainment lawyers, Bert Fields. The 24-year veteran of the Beverly Hills force admitted that he had used police computers to gather information on a person who had been in court battling a client of Fields’ firm: Greenberg, Glusker, Fields, Claman, Machtinger and Kinsella.

Fields long ago acknowledged that authorities had told him he was a subject of the investigation. But Fields, his attorney and a lawyer for the firm all have denied any wrongdoing or knowledge that Pellicano engaged in illegal acts.

Given Pellicano’s broad connections within the legal community, Fields’ firm was only one of many to come under scrutiny by the FBI.

In recent months, documents and interviews show, at least five local law firms have been subpoenaed for records of Pellicano’s work for their attorneys. Though the firms turned over some of the records, others were withheld on grounds that the work was confidential or irrelevant.

For all the public interest in the case, the FBI and federal prosecutors have been extraordinarily secretive about the pace and direction of the investigation, which has been led by Assistant U.S. Attys. Daniel Saunders and Kevin Lally under the supervision of George Cardona, the office’s chief assistant U.S. attorney.

Debra Wong Yang, the U.S. attorney in Los Angeles, months ago recused herself from the case because she had worked earlier in her career for Greenberg, Glusker, according to several private lawyers involved in the case.

Thom Mrozek, spokesman for the office, confirmed that Yang had removed herself from the probe.

Loyola University law professor Laurie Levenson, a former federal prosecutor, said Yang “did the right thing.”

“It is my understanding that they have walled her off from day one and that she has had no decision-making responsibility in the case,” Levenson said.

Several attorneys close to the case said Bruce G. Ohr, chief of the U.S. Justice Department’s organized crime and racketeering section, is involved in decisions about the case. Ohr oversees the unit that handles prosecutions under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, which authorities have considered using in this case.

Levenson said federal prosecutors in Los Angeles have to clear RICO cases with the Justice Department in Washington.

Several veteran Los Angeles lawyers who specialize in defending white-collar crime suspects said they had been retained by other attorneys who are under scrutiny in the Pellicano case.

The lawyers all spoke on condition that they not be identified because of the sensitivity of the situation, including the possibility that some of their clients could be indicted.

Some of them said they thought it highly likely that attorneys would be indicted in the near future.

Asked how serious the government was about indicting certain attorneys, one defense lawyer said: “Beyond serious.”

Added the lawyer: “That dead fish led to a treasure trove of stuff.”

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