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

When apparently no credible evidence of such crimes as racketeering, bribery or conspiracy was unearthed and the banks refused to participate, Rosoff and the organized-crime units spent weeks in hopes of arresting Di Carlo for, of all things, driving under the influence of alcohol, Rosoff said. On two occasions, the operative lured the businessman to the Chanteclair Restaurant near John Wayne Airport in Irvine for drinks. An unsuspecting Di Carlo, however, managed to get home without incident even though local patrol officers had been ordered to arrest him as soon as he left the restaurant.

The following excerpt from the Rosoff deposition gives further insight into the mindset he said existed in the organized-crime unit:

Question: Were you aware that they wanted to get Mr. Di Carlo?

Answer: Yes, I was definitely aware.

Question: Did they ever use the words "we want to get him"?

Answer: They certainly did.

In August 1988, Di Carlo filed a $40 million pre-lawsuit complaint against the Sheriff's Department and the DA's office for illegal surveillance, violation of bank secrecy laws, suborning perjury, invasion of privacy and obstruction of justice. According to the complaint, the law-enforcement agencies had been telling Di Carlo's business associates that he was "under investigation for international fraud and organized-crime activities" and calling him a "con man." Di Carlo, who ultimately did not pursue the suit because of legal costs, also accused the officers of spreading rumors that he was in the "Witness Protection Program from an Eastern state." He added that over the course of several months, members of the organized-crime unit were known to enter restaurants where the Di Carlo family was dining and "sit in close proximity and stare" at him.

Despite their inability to make a case, the officers' campaign managed to drive clients and business partners away and put Di Carlo—a father of seven—into financial straits, said Aitken. In a January 1990 letter to the DA's organized-crime unit, Di Carlo officially complained once again that its officers were still harassing him with "incessant inquiry" into his businesses and spreading slanderous rumors that they had a "big file" on him. He demanded that the officers either charge him with a crime or leave him alone. Di Carlo said in the complaint that he was "beginning to wonder whether a private individual in this county is afforded any protection under the Constitution."

Near the end of the interview with the Weekly, Rackauckas had taken off his gray suit jacket and rolled up the sleeves of his white button-down shirt to his elbows. There were circles around his eyes, and he slouched in his chair. He told the reporter he was leery of the interview, but he didn't dodge a single question and supplied records to support his case. Far from giving short, detail-free answers, the DA spoke much of the time so openly that Richards, his press secretary, urged him to narrow his responses.

It was during the 1998 campaign when a member of then-DA Michael Capizzi's organized-crime unit advised his boss's replacement to stay away from Di Carlo because "maybe he is crooked, maybe he has some kind of shady past," Rackauckas said. "They had this vague notion that he was connected to the mob, but clearly, they had no support for that whatsoever. When I asked for supporting evidence, I didn't get any."

The DA said Di Carlo explained that he had been "treated rather heavy-handed" over the years by the organized-crime investigators. Rackauckas went back to the investigators. "I asked them, 'Could you tell me what it is [Di Carlo] has done?' And, really, they never came up with anything."

But the DA said his investigators were insistent that "something is wrong with that guy." He then demanded their file on Di Carlo. "All I got was a manila folder with two newspaper articles that talked about Moriarty and a sheet of paper that named Pat Di Carlo as an associate of the mob. That was it. There was nothing of value," said Rackauckas, who added he decided the accusation was baseless and ordered his men to discontinue their Di Carlo probe. A couple of weeks later, however, Di Carlo called Rackauckas and said that investigator Wilson had ignored the order by contacting and frightening Elton Johnson, one of Di Carlo's potential business partners. The alleged insubordination infuriated the DA.

Last month, Rackauckas learned that his officers may also not have been totally forthcoming to him. Despite assurances that they had destroyed the entire Di Carlo file, a tape of an April 2000 interrogation of Di Carlo somehow made its way from the organized-crime unit to the desk of an investigative reporter at the Register. The "shocked and surprised" DA suspended investigators Wilson and Foye, an officer Di Carlo originally fingered as his nemesis in the 1980s, and asked the Riverside district attorney and state Attorney General Bill Lockyer to determine if any laws were broken. Investigations are under way.

Neither Wilson nor Foye responded to requests for interviews. But several law-enforcement sources said they have complete confidence in the two veteran investigators, described as "real professional, straight-laced" cops who "do everything by the book." In a move that underscores the division within the DA's office after the investigators were suspended, three ranking prosecutors—including assistant DA Michael Jacobs—flew to Sacramento on Feb. 6 to ask the attorney general to look into what they see as Rackauckas' misconduct in office. Their concerns also include suspicions that the DA may have misappropriated public funds for his private foundation that gives out official-looking badges to local businessmen who contribute money.

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