Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Anthony Pellicano: Wiretapper to the Stars

Used Dental Floss

Kirk Kerkorian
Kirk Kerkorian

On February 15, 2006, federal prosecutors indicted Hollywood attorney Terry N. Christensen. He was the first high-profile figure in the entertainment business to be indicted in connection with Pellicano's wiretapping activities. The government charged Christensen with paying Pellicano $100,000 in 2002 to tap the telephones of Lisa Bonder Kerkorian, the ex-wife of 89-year-old billionaire Kirk Kerkorian, the former owner of MGM and currently the largest shareholder in General Motors. At the time, Mrs. Bonder Kerkorian was suing Mr. Kerkorian for an increase in child-support payments from $50,000 a month to $320,000, including, according to Vanity Fair, "$6,000 a month for house flowers and $150,000 a month for private jet travel." The couple have one child.

Terry N. Christensen
Terry N. Christensen

The Kerkorians' marriage lasted 28 days, though they had been dating for 11 years. Mr. Kerkorian did not believe that the little girl was his and felt that his ex-wife had tricked him into thinking that it was. The dispute began in 1999, and embarrassing details of Kerkorian's lavish spending have appeared in the press. Kerkorian was represented by attorney Terry Christensen. According to the indictment, fellow attorney Bert Fields advised Pellicano to contact Christensen about "going after" Mrs. Bonder Kerkorian's attorney, Stephen A. Kolodny. Three days after the court ordered Mr. Kerkorian to pay $225,000 to Kolodny for his ex-wife's legal bills, Christensen paid Pellicano $25,000 to start tapping on her phones.

On April 28, 2002, Pellicano reported to Christensen that he had intercepted conversations between Mrs. Bonder Kerkorian and her lawyers in which she discussed the child's actual biological father, Hollywood producer Steve Bing. Kerkorian and Christensen visited Bing the next day and asked him if he would take a DNA test. Bing refused, but another investigator hired by Kerkorian went through Bing's garbage and found a piece of used dental floss with which a lab was able to prove that he was indeed the father of Mrs. Bonder Kerkorian's child.

Dennis Wasser
Dennis Wasser

A California court reduced Mrs. Bonder Kerkorian's request and ordered Mr. Kerkorian to pay her a little over $50,000 a month.

With regard to the charges leveled against Terry Christensen, Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Saunders told the New York Times that Christensen had used the information illegally retrieved by Pellicano and "changed the playing field... No attorney should stoop to such a level to gain a tactical advantage."

But with this indictment, Hollywood started sweating. The government wasn't just going after tough guys and techies. They were going after the big fish. People who had used Pellicano's services in the past had good reason to be worried.

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