Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Anthony Pellicano: Wiretapper to the Stars


Sammy 'the Bull' Gravano
Sammy 'the Bull' Gravano

Pellicano is an acknowledged expert in the technology of audio surveillance and has worked for the FBI on several occasions, turning garbled intercepts into usable evidence. In 2001, he helped the FBI analyze wiretap evidence against Sammy 'the Bull' Gravano, former underboss of the Gambino crime family in New York, who had relocated to Arizona and started dealing drugs in quantity there. Gravano was tried and convicted of narcotics trafficking.

Pellicano had compiled an impressive collection of electronic surveillance gadgetry, which he kept in his fabled "War Room," a locked room in his Sunset Boulevard office. He also commissioned custom surveillance software to handle with his extensive wiretapping activities. One of his programs, Forensic Audio Sleuth, could clarify barely audible recordings. Another program that he developed, Telesleuth, was designed to intercept wiretapped phone calls automatically. Pellicano would routinely record hundreds of hours of telephone conversations when working on a case, but rather than hire people to listen to every minute of what he recorded, he used a Telesleuth feature that graphed the volume of the speakers' voices. Pellicano knew from experience that the best information came when people raised their voices, and his software automatically picked out those conversations.

Building: Los Angeles Police Department
Building: Los Angeles Police Department

Prosecutors allege that Pellicano bribed two police officers to illegally check law-enforcement databases for criminal and driving histories. Officer Craig Stevens of the Beverly Hills Police Department pleaded guilty to charges prior to the Pellicano indictment. Officer Mark Areson of the Los Angeles Police Department was indicted along with Pellicano, as was Rayford Earl Turner, a Pacific Bell worker who gave Pellicano confidential telephone records and installed wiretaps on phone lines for him. Another PacBell employee, Teresa Wright, pleaded guilty before the indictment was announced.

Among the witnesses against Pellicano is his girlfriend, Sandra Will Carradine, the ex-wife of actor Keith Carradine. Ms. Carradine had hired Pellicano when she was divorcing her husband in 1993. (Keith Carradine subsequently sued Pellicano for harassment.) After being indicted in January 2006, she pleaded guilty to two counts of perjury in the Pellicano case and decided to cooperate with the FBI. She testified that during a series of jailhouse visits with Pellicano in December 2005, Pellicano spoke of his wiretapping activities but tugged on his ear rather than using the word wiretap, according to the New York Times. In one conversation, he admitted that he had passed on information obtained from wiretaps to prominent divorce attorney Dennis Wasser.

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