In the first payola indictment in a major recording industry investigation, a Los Angeles federal grand jury Thursday accused San Mateo record promoter Ralph Tashjian of giving money and cocaine to three radio station employees, according to Tashjian's defense attorney. Tashjian and his wife, Valerie, were also charged with income tax evasion.
The indictment alleges that Tashjian paid money or cocaine to two Fresno radio station employees and to an El Paso radio station employee to have recordings broadcast, according to defense lawyers Anthony P. Brooklier and David E. Kenner, both of Los Angeles.
Tashjian is an associate of Joseph Isgro, a Los Angeles-based record promoter, who has been under investigation by the grand jury but was not named in the indictment.
Charge Involves Cocaine
The Los Angeles grand jury payola investigation was launched in February, 1986, as an adjunct to an investigation into the activities of reputed organized crime figure Salvatore Pisello.
According to Brooklier, who represents Tashjian, these were the payola charges against his client in the eight-count indictment:
- Payments totaling $40,000 and quantities of cocaine to Johnny Lee Walker of station KYNO in Fresno between January, 1980, and June, 1984.
- Payment of quantities of cocaine to Edward Carey, an employee of station KMGX in Fresno between January, 1984, and August, 1985.
- Payment of about $1,800 and quantities of cocaine to Robert Brulte, an employee of KAMZ in El Paso, between January, 1984, and December, 1985.
None of the three radio station employees could be reached for comment.
Other indictment counts against Tashjian, according to his lawyer, include drug conspiracy, giving false records to the grand jury and, with his wife, three counts of corporate income tax evasion for the years 1983, 1984 and 1985.
Brooklier and Kenner, Valerie Tashjian's attorney, denied all the charges on behalf of their clients. The attorneys expressed indignation that federal authorities had the Tashjians arrested at home in the presence of their young children, although the lawyers had pledged in advance to surrender them at the courthouse when the expected indictment was returned.
Federal prosecutors at the Justice Department's Organized Crime Strike Force in Los Angeles, which is handling the case, did not announce the indictment and could not be reached for comment on it late Thursday. However, an employee at the strike force office said a news conference in the case was set for today.
Last month, a San Mateo lawyer, Dennis DiRicco, was indicted as part of a related investigation in San Francisco. He was accused of aiding preparation of false income tax returns by setting up a fraudulent partnership.
According to the January indictment, Isgro and Tashjian were major investors in DiRicco's fraudulent partnership, but there was "no evidence that individual investors had knowledge of the fraudulent nature of the deductions they were claiming." The indictment said Isgro claimed a loss of $1.4 million in 1984 and Tashjian claimed a loss of $98,000.
As previously reported, Tashjian worked out of Isgro's office but for his own company, Ralph Tashjian Enterprises Inc.
Thursday's indictment accused both Tashjians of corporate income tax evasion of $17,900 for the fiscal year ended June, 1983, $4,811 for the fiscal year ended June, 1984, and $84,991 for the fiscal year ended June, 1985.
Brooklier said he believed that the Tashjians were arrested at home, rather than being allowed to surrender, because they declined to testify against others. He said neither has a criminal record.
Kenner said he and Brooklier had brought the Tashjians from the San Francisco Bay area to the courthouse here on three consecutive Thursdays so they could surrender if an indictment had been returned then. The last time was two weeks ago, he said. He said they stopped having their clients come here because the strike force told them "it was not necessary" and that it did not know when the indictments would be returned.
Both Tashjians are to be arraigned today in San Francisco. Brooklier said the prosecutors were asking that Tashjian be held without bail and were seeking $50,000 bail for his wife.