Who the Hells in Charge?

District attorney Tony Rackauckas says his organized-crime agents are out of control. His agents say hes hanging out with a mobster

Rackauckas may have had other, more serious worries. If a March 8 report by veteran private investigator Mike Madigan is true, Rackauckas visited the Santa Ana branch of the FBI in October and "demanded to know if his phones were tapped" by the agents.

"For some reason, he was afraid to use his phones," said Madigan, who refused to identify his source for the information.

The DA declined to confirm or deny the report, but it is clear that with his political lifeline fraying a few alarmed Republicans—even former Rackauckas supporters—are now scurrying to find a challenger for next year's election.

"Who would have thought this mess could have happened in the Orange County district attorney's office?" said one veteran law-enforcement source who spoke on condition of anonymity. "I have no idea what Tony has been thinking. I can't decide if he is corrupt or stupid."

Patrick Di Carlo's two-story, five-bedroom, five-bathroom, Mediterranean-style mansion (valued at more than $3 million) sits on an exclusive 7,000-square-foot lot behind a gated bridge to Newport Beach's picturesque Harbor Island. When the gates to Harbor Island open, $100,000 cars and window-tinted, chauffeur-driven limousines emerge. Di Carlo's neighbors include billionaire George Argyros and Robert Ferrante, a onetime Di Carlo associate and owner of the looted, 1980s, Irvine-based Consolidated Savings & Loan. (In 1982, Ferrante—an Orange County native—said he was the victim of a Mafia hit when a hooded gunman shot him six times in Redondo Beach.) Di Carlo's waterfront property is registered in the name of Agincourt Inc., one of his numerous companies scattered around the country. Rackauckas and his wife, Kay, who is also an Orange County prosecutor, have spent the night in the house with Di Carlo and his wife, Mary Jane, whom the DA affectionately calls "M.J."

It's difficult to say what Di Carlo—an avid sports and history buff, says Rackauckas—makes of the scandal. According to his attorney, Wylie Aitken, Di Carlo agreed to the Weekly's request for an interview. Then a series of "scheduling" issues during an 11-day period prevented a meeting. But based on interviews with Aitken, Rackauckas and the numerous records Di Carlo supplied to us, it is clear that the businessman views himself as an innocent casualty of out-of-control organized-crime cops hell-bent on smearing his reputation.

"What we have here is our own little Rampart [in the DA's organized-crime unit]," said Aitken, referencing a division of the Los Angeles Police Department currently under investigation for routinely violating constitutional rights, planting evidence and shooting handcuffed suspects. "For a long time, they operated unbridled."

Asked why officers have allegedly singled out Di Carlo for abuse, Aitken—one of California's most prestigious plaintiff's attorneys—didn't hesitate. "That is a good, good question," he said. "What is it that this gentleman has done? No one has ever articulated anything to me. In my humble opinion, he is a victim."

Remarkably, both Aitken—a self-described Robert F. Kennedy Democrat who is chairman of the congressional campaigns of Representative Loretta Sanchez (D-Garden Grove)—and Rackauckas, a die-hard conservative Republican, agree that Di Carlo is a victim of "vigilante" detectives acting on "personal vendettas."

Di Carlo "is nothing other than an honest businessman. . . . I enjoy his company," Rackauckas said. "He makes sure all of his T's are crossed and his I's are dotted because he understands that he might be investigated any time of the day or night."

But some law-enforcement officials—including federal agents—apparently are not swayed by the DA's endorsement. They believe the organized-crime unit's probes of Di Carlo—who has complained that he was the target of two threatened but unexecuted mob hits—irreparably taint the relationship between the DA and the businessman. "If [veteran investigators] were treating Mr. Di Carlo as a suspect," employees wrote on the anti-Rackauckas website, "then perhaps they had good reason."

And perhaps they didn't. In off-the-record interviews, law-enforcement sources failed to provide any solid information that indicates Di Carlo has committed any crime. More important, after 24 years of government investigations, not only has Di Carlo never been convicted of a crime but he also has never even been charged with one.

There is ample evidence that organized-crime cops have a long, possibly sordid history when it comes to Di Carlo. In 1989, George P. Wright—a former federal organized-crime task-force officer—rocked Orange County with an alarming exposé on the organized-crime units of the Sheriff's Department and the DA's office. The units had "degenerated into little more than spy groups" operating on personal whim and without constitutional or moral conscience, Wright alleged in The Twisted Badge. The book detailed how the county organized-crime units had allegedly harassed a municipal judge, a college professor, an attorney and a newspaper reporter—all of whom had personally angered powerful local politicians. Now chairman of the criminal-justice department at Santa Ana College, Wright also described how in the mid-1980s, the organized-crime cops worked strenuously to nail Di Carlo.

Wright's book and court documents tell the story of James Rosoff, an undercover operative for the DA's organized-crime unit from the late 1960s through the 1980s. In a 1985 deposition filed in connection with a separate lawsuit, Rosoff said under oath that he had been assigned to Di Carlo because "there was some sort of strife and battle going on between the investigators and Mr. Di Carlo." The officers wanted Rosoff—an expert in white-collar crime—to dig up anything he could on Di Carlo after one of his business associates, W. Patrick Moriarty—an Anaheim fireworks manufacturer—was convicted in one of California's largest and most colorful bribery scandals. Rosoff said he was also ordered to encourage Di Carlo's banks to accuse him of crimes.

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