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Detective Suspended in Probe of Hollywood Labor Racketeering

June 05, 1988|RONALD L. SOBLE | Times Staff Writer

A veteran Los Angeles police detective has been suspended for a month by Chief Daryl F. Gates and a second officer has taken early retirement after it was alleged that they compromised a federal investigation into labor racketeering in the entertainment industry, The Times has learned.

The suspension, ordered Thursday afternoon against Detective Louis W. Graham, 45, came after a four-month investigation by the Los Angeles Police Department's Internal Affairs unit. Graham's partner, Detective John J. St. John, 53, took early retirement last February after being interrogated by Internal Affairs investigators. Because he had retired, no penalty was lodged against him.

The investigation of St. John and Graham is understood to have started last fall when the FBI learned that St. John allegedly had leaked information about a federal inquiry into the activities of his longtime friend, Martin Bacow, a sometime labor consultant,

Bacow is the focus of a federal organized crime strike force investigation into suspected labor racketeering in the entertainment industry, according to government sources.

Graham, according to police charges that are not expected to be made public, knew that St. John had passed information about the federal inquiry to Bacow, but declined to tell his superiors. Neither St. John nor Graham would comment on the allegations.

Los Angeles Police Department spokesman Cmdr. William Booth said Gates took "appropriate disciplinary action (against Graham). . . . It was severe."

In the course of its investigation of the leak, a knowledgeable source told The Times, the FBI took the unprecedented step of obtaining a court order to tap the telephones of the Organized Crime Intelligence Division, where the two detectives were assigned. The wiretaps, it is understood, were approved by top officials of the Los Angeles Police Department. The FBI declined comment.

Booth declined to comment on the wiretaps. "We have great relations with the FBI and that relationship includes (this) investigation," he said. "Nothing the FBI did was inconsistent with our ongoing relationship."

Some police officers who have learned of the wiretap take a dimmer view. "It was a personal embarrassment to the Police Department," a highly placed source said.

St. John and Graham were among nine detectives in the 51-detective OCID unit who had achieved supervisory rank under Capt. Stuart J. Finck.

According to informed sources, Graham was charged with "acquiescing," or knowing, that St. John had allegedly leaked information; that, as a supervisor, Graham allegedly failed to take action against St. John after learning of the improper relationship, and that, according to two other charges, Graham failed to cooperate with Internal Affairs investigators brought into the case following the FBI complaint.

St. John had long been assigned to gather intelligence on criminal infiltration in the entertainment industry. Sunset Strip was his beat.

"St. John knew all the people on the Strip," one police source said. He is believed to have been the first Los Angeles police officer to bring the issue of record industry payola in Los Angeles to the attention of federal investigators a few years ago.

The FBI is believed to have learned last fall of the alleged leak through telephone wiretaps on Bacow's home and office and immediately began an investigation. Shortly afterward, wiretaps were in place on OCID detectives' phones.

Then, in early February, OCID detectives were stunned when officers from the LAPD's Internal Affairs unit showed up at the intelligence division's downtown offices, searched and sealed the two detectives' desks--and then interrogated them at length.

In an interview, Bacow left no doubt that he was perceived by law enforcement as the recipient of information from St. John that led to the ouster of the two detectives. He said it was not unusual for him to talk with St. John as often as four to five times a day.

Bacow said he met St. John "years ago" and that St. John "is one of the nicest individuals God ever put on this earth--an honest, decent man."

But their friendship was St. John's undoing, Bacow suggested.

Sometime last year, he said, St. John contacted him and alerted him that the FBI "was trying to say I had mob money in my picture. I said, 'John, you know I wouldn't do anything like that,' and he says he told them, 'He's got a contract with Universal.' He told them there was a contract, and t hey didn't want to hear about it."

Bacow added:

"He did tell me this, he said, 'I'm going to stop it (the investigation) once and for all. They're going to have to lay off of you.' "

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