Scientology Crime Syndicate

Subject: Was this detective used by Scn?
From: mirele@newsguy.com (Deana Marie Holmes)
Date: Thu, 01 Jul 1999 12:28:24 GMT

Doug Frantz has written about Scn in the past; maybe someone with connections could discreetly ask him if Scn ever used Rapp?


July 1, 1999

Law Confronts Seller of Private Data


DENVER -- Using deception to ferret out personal information, including Ennis Cosby's credit card records after his killing and the home addresses of organized crime detectives in Los Angeles, a private detective built a $1-million-a-year business here selling information that ended up in the hands of everyone from the tabloid press to a reputed member of the Israeli Mafia.

Working out of his office in suburban Aurora, the detective, James J. Rapp, took in daily requests from people who wanted the confidential phone numbers and bank accounts for celebrities and victims of high-profile crimes, like the Columbine High School shootings. Rapp obtained records on the visits of television's "Ally McBeal" star, Calista Flockhart, to a doctor in Beverly Hills, Calif., at a time when the tabloids were filled with articles that she had an eating disorder, investigators and prosecutors said.

The authorities also said Rapp sold information about the Princess of Wales and her boyfriend in the hours after their deaths and information about JonBenet Ramsey, the 6-year-old beauty queen killed in nearby Boulder.

Rapp even obtained the phone records of Kathleen E. Willey, the former White House volunteer who said President Clinton made an unwanted sexual advance to her, the authorities said.

It is not clear who received Rapp's information. But when the authorities raided the offices of his Touch Tone Information in May, they found a list of more than 1,200 private detective agencies across the country that were buying confidential information about Hollywood celebrities, estranged spouses, debtors and deadbeats.

Among the investigators on the list was a Denver private detective who had been employed occasionally as a consultant by ABC-TV, though there is no evidence the network ever used Rapp's information. The authorities say some of the information about celebrities has been used by The National Enquirer and The Globe.

Rapp, 39, and his wife, Regana L. Rapp, were indicted by a Jefferson County grand jury on Friday on two counts each of racketeering, in a case that is the first known criminal prosecution against the growing business of peddling confidential information. If convicted, the couple could face up to 24 years in prison and a fine up to $1 million.

Rapp was imprisoned in 1982 for violating probation after a conviction for auto theft.

Rapp said he and his wife had not broken any laws. The case against the Rapps is the biggest test of whether practices that on their face are deceptive are also illegal. Rapp's employees obtained the information through a subterfuge known in their business as a pretext: calling banks, phone companies and other businesses and claiming to be the customer whose records were sought.

The case was put together by Colorado authorities from a little-used state law on impersonating someone to obtain information and a common Federal statute on wire fraud and could break new legal ground by helping define how far private investigators can go in using deceit and trickery to obtain confidential data about unsuspecting individuals.

The indictment, coupled with seized documents and interviews with law-enforcement investigators in recent days, provides the fullest picture available of how the Rapps turned lying into such a lucrative business.

A former Touch Tone employee said in an interview that a colleague who sat next to him cried constantly as part of her act.

Nearby, the ex-employee said, an elderly man faked a foreign accent and pretended to be confused to get information. Essentially, it is not illegal to lie about identity, except when impersonating a police officer or government official. The Colorado authorities hope to build a successful prosecution because their state is one of the few that make it a crime to impersonate someone else for gain.

Until the Rapp case, deceptions by private investigators and information brokers have not been prosecuted and no Federal law specifically prohibits impersonating someone to get confidential information.

"A lot of things most Americans assume are illegal or wrong are not prohibited by law," said Evan Hendricks, editor of Privacy Times, a Washington newsletter.

Dennis Hall, the Jefferson County Deputy District Attorney who led the investigation, said in an interview: "These people engaged in reprehensible conduct to profit from all sorts of tragedies. They broke the law by impersonating someone to get private information and selling it for profit."

Aristedes W. Zavaras, executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Safety, said the case represented the strongest evidence yet that stringent controls were necessary to safeguard private information and maintain public confidence.

"The indictments here send a loud and clear message that these practices must stop," Zavaras said.

In the face of growing concerns over privacy, Congress is considering laws to prohibit using pretexts to obtain confidential information. Rapp, in a brief interview, called the charges ridiculous and said his activities were legal. He said his lawyer had advised him not to discuss the indictment, but in an earlier interview, before the charges were filed, he maintained that there was nothing inherently wrong with using deception to get confidential information.

Even at this early stage, the case provides an unusually rich window into the secretive world of information brokers, a new breed of investigators who have grown into a multimillion-dollar industry by trafficking in confidential information obtained through lies and access to the latest public and private computer databases.

A price list seized by the police shows that the Rapps offered to get unpublished telephone numbers and addresses for $85, a monthly bill for local or long distance phone calls for $75, bank statements for $100, stock transactions for $200.

Results were guaranteed. Company records showed revenues averaging $20,000 a week.

The aggressive techniques used by the Rapps and their company led the Federal Trade Commission to file a civil lawsuit against the Rapps and the company in April. The agency charged that using pretexts represented an invasion of consumer privacy. The case, which is pending, will help determine regulatory authority over information brokers and private detectives.

The Inquiry: Getting a Lead From the Coast

Touch Tone first came to the attention of the Colorado Bureau of Investigation last January. The Los Angeles Police Department asked for information about Touch Tone after records seized from a private detective's home showed that the company had provided home addresses, phone numbers and pager numbers for detectives on the police department's organized-crime squad, according to an affidavit filed in the Rapp case by Robert Brown, the Colorado agent in charge of the investigation here.

The police said the information was obtained for Assaf Waknine, an Israeli identified by the Los Angeles police as an organized-crime member, according to Brown's affidavit.

Waknine used the information to harass detectives and create a "clone" of one detective's pager that received his pages in an effort to discover the identity of an informer, according to the affidavit and interviews with law-enforcement officials here.

In early March, the Colorado authorities set up a sting on Touch Tone. With the help of a cooperative private investigator, Jane Cracraft, they asked Rapp to obtain bank records and monthly phone records for a woman. Rapp agreed and explained the way he worked, according to court records and taped conversations.

The first step, he said, was for him or an employee to assume the identity of the customer and persuade the customer service representatives at the banks and phone companies to give them the customer's information.

"We get them to read each and every item off the customer's account for every month you want," he told Ms. Cracraft, who responded, "You must be pretty good with your scams."

With a laugh, Rapp said, "After 20 years, you get pretty good." True to his guarantee, Rapp provided accurate bank and phone records for the woman, who was actually an employee of the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. The cost was $460.

Touch Tone operated out of a dingy three-room office suite in Aurora. One room contained files for active cases, which were destroyed after Touch Tone received payment. Another contained phones and faxes for incoming information requests, which were logged and routed to Rapp and employees in the adjoining, larger room.

The larger room was where Rapp oversaw the pretext calls. In the office jargon, obtaining phone records was known as "busting a number" and getting bank account information was "breaking the bank."

By all accounts, Rapp was a brazen whiz at lying. Jeff Harley, who worked briefly at Touch Tone, told the authorities that once when he was unable to "bust" an unpublished phone number, number to find the name and address of the customer, Rapp grabbed the file from him and got the information on the first try.

Some former employees told the authorities that they had responded to classified advertisements seeking private investigators, while others had been sent to Touch Tone by temporary employment agencies. One former office temp told investigators that Rapp said to him, "I need to know how well you can lie."

The Ploys: Gaining Sympathy, Getting Data

A common ploy used by Touch Tone was to claim to be an irate husband whose wife had just left him for another man and demand records of long-distance calls because he was not going to pay for calls to her boyfriend, according to an affidavit in the case. Rapp liked female employees because they could play on emotions by crying, Harley said.

The lies worked largely because the callers dealt with customer service representatives at various businesses who are trained to provide help. When Touch Tone investigators ran into an unwilling person, they simply hung up and called again to get another representative, former employees told investigators.

A list of phone numbers for hundreds of banks, phone companies and credit card businesses nationwide was found in the search at Touch Tone in May.

When Touch Tone callers pretended to be someone in another city and wanted information faxed, they used a company that forwards faxes from dozens of sites around the country, according to the authorities. Rapp employed as many as 20 callers, who were called investigators. Many Touch Tone employees worked from their homes on a commission after being trained, said Brown, the Colorado agent, and his partner, Patrick Maroney.

Rapp's former wife, Holly, told a Denver television station this week that he had used their young daughter to make calls years ago.

While the clients from the seized files are private detective agencies, the users of the information ranged from tabloids like the Globe and National Enquirer to banks and insurance companies seeking information about their own customers, according to records obtained in the search and interviews with private investigators who used Touch Tone.

The Secrets: Who Got Them, Who Used Them

One client was Al Schweitzer, a prominent Denver detective who does investigative work for television and tabloids. Dahlia Roemer, a spokeswoman for ABC-TV, said that Schweitzer had worked twice as a consultant for the ABC News program "20/20" but that he had not done investigative work for ABC.

Schweitzer said that he had done some investigative work for the network, but that he never used Touch Tone to get information for ABC. He added that he stopped using the company more than two years ago after disagreeing with Rapp over some of his methods.

Records show that one of the largest users of Touch Tone was a Florida detective agency, Action Research Group. Its Touch Tone bills for the first four months of this year totaled more than $20,000. Joe Vepante, the owner of Action Research, said he mainly got information for banks on people who had bad debts.

Former Touch Tone employees said information on celebrities and victims of accidents had been extremely valuable because it could be sold over and over. For instance, in a letter to one client about the JonBenet Ramsey slaying, Rapp listed 14 categories of items for sale, ranging from phone and credit card records for the girl's parents to phone records for the family's private detective and the home address and phone number for the Boulder police detective investigating the death.

The indictment of the Rapps spelled out how they obtained some information about the Ramseys. Within days of the child's death on Dec. 26, 1996, callers from Touch Tone used pretexts to obtain American Express credit card records for her parents, John and Patricia Ramsey, according to the charges. Those records showed that purchases were made at a Boulder hardware store several days before the child's death.

On Jan. 14, 1997, a Touch Tone investigator called McGuckin Hardware pretending to be "John" and asking for information concerning two American Express charges. The investigator followed up with a letter identifying the charges and seeking the invoices. The letter was signed "John Ramsey."

Six days later, the hardware store provided the information on the purchases, which investigators said later found its way into an article in the tabloid Globe.

Lawrence Olmstead, who operates a research firm called Press Pass Media in Palmdale, Calif., acknowledged that Rapp sent him a letter offering the Ramsey information for sale but Olmstead said he did not buy any of it.

Olmstead acknowledged that he often bought phone numbers and addresses from Touch Tone on behalf of news media clients, whom he would identify only as some tabloids and mainstream media.

"A lot of guys make promises, but James really delivered," said Olmstead, who said everything he bought was used in legitimate news media inquiries.

Brown and Maroney of the Colorado Bureau of Investigation said in an interview that Touch Tone records showed that Olmstead bought American Express records and phone records for Ennis Cosby, the son of the actor Bill Cosby, after the younger Cosby had been killed along a Los Angeles freeway in January 1997. Olmstead denied acquiring information about Cosby.

More recently, Brown said, Touch Tone obtained unpublished phone numbers, phone records and home addresses for victims of the Columbine High School shooting in April. He said the information was obtained for Olmstead.

Olmstead confirmed buying the Columbine information, but he said it had been for legitimate news purposes. "Reporters wanted to speak with these families or send them requests for interviews," he said. "No one was harassed."

The Colorado authorities said constructing the indictment was complex and unusual. Hall, the lead prosecutor, said some people had to be convinced that obtaining confidential information by lying broke the law.

In the end, however, he said the charges hinged on the state law that prohibits impersonating someone for profit or to harm them and on the broad Federal wire fraud statute, which makes it a crime to use a telephone to commit an illegal act.

The racketeering indictment was based on what on what prosecutors said was a pattern of violating the state and Federal statutes.

"It is difficult to put a monetary value on privacy, but it was clear that the Rapps violated the law in the way they obtained information," Hall said. "What's against the law is how they got the information." mirele ARS Fish-Monger Award Winner ><_'> <_"

Our unanimous affirmance of the Court of Appeals' judgment concerning
16-1-20.2 makes it unnecessary to comment at length on the District
Court's remarkable conclusion that the Federal Constitution imposes no
obstacle to Alabama's establishment of a state religion.
=============== Wallace v. Jaffree, 472 U.S. 38 (1985) ================
mirele@xmission.com (Deana M. Holmes) mirele_ on EFNet #scientology

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