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Hollywood PI in wiretap charge rap

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A former sleuth to the stars has been charged with masterminding an illegal wiretapping operation targeted against actors, reporters and agents. Anthony Pellicano is charged with running unlawful wiretaps or unlawfully obtaining background checks against actors Sylvester Stallone, Keith Carradine, and an entertainment reporter at The Los Angeles Times. He's also accused of impersonating staff at the Creative Artists talent agency.

Pellicano, 61, and alleged co-conspirators including a former phone company staffer, a former Los Angeles cop and four others, have been indicted with offences ranging from racketeering and conspiracy, to wiretapping, identity theft, and obstruction of justice following a three year investigation, the The New York Times reports. According to the indictment, Pellicano's clients used the information he illegally obtained as ammunition in disputes. It's unclear whether Pellicano's clients understood his methods. The government is seeking $1.9m in damages against the alleged wiretapping gang.

Prosecutors allege that around 1995, Pellicano hired a programmer to write software to convert audio signals into digital files that could be stored on a computer. Around the same time two Pacific Bell workers, Rayford Earl Turner, 49, and Teresa Wright, were hired to provide the phone records of potential targets so snooping devices could be placed on their lines. In 1997, Pellicano stepped up his operation by recruiting LA police officer Mark Arneson, 52, and a Beverly Hills cop, Craig Stevens, 45, to illegally access police databases in order to obtain dirt on targets. Wright and Stevens have already pleaded guilty to offences, while the charges against Arneson and Turner became public on Monday.

The investigation against Pellicano began in 2002 after an LA Times reporter, Anita Busch, was threatened while investigating a story about actor Steven Seagal and his alleged relationship with a Mafia suspect. Investigators discovered evidence that an ex-con had been hired by Pellicano to stop Busch from looking into the story. Evidence obtained allowed police to obtain a warrant to search Pellicano's office where they seized computer files and wiretaps.

The indictment against Pellicano names three of his clients including Robert Pfeifer, 50, the former head of Hollywood Records who allegedly hired the private investigator to spy on a former girlfriend, Erin Finn. Pellicano, who was released from prison after serving time for unrelated firearms offences last week, was refused bail at a hearing on Monday during which he pleaded not guilty to all the charges against him. ®

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