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Intelligence Units Across U.S. Probe Alleged LAPD Leak

June 24, 1988|WILLIAM K. KNOEDELSEDER JR. and KIM MURPHY and RONALD L. SOBLE | Times Staff Writers

Law enforcement agencies across the country are scrambling to determine whether any investigations have been compromised by a case in which two Los Angeles police detectives from an organized crime unit allegedly leaked confidential information.

The Law Enforcement Intelligence Unit, an organization of 265 state and local police intelligence agencies, will consider the Los Angeles case when its directors meet this fall, according to the agency's chairman, Richard Bacon. If the group is not satisfied that the LAPD has handled the matter thoroughly, it could suspend or terminate the Police Department's membership in the group, he said.

"Any time you have a problem in intelligence, it's a concern to the rest of our membership," said Bacon, who heads the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

"We have to assess how deep it goes," added a police intelligence supervisor on the East Coast who asked not to be identified. "How much information was given? We're interviewing (our) people. We don't know how much damage was done. It could have jeopardized entire investigations."

Capt. Stuart Finck, head of the LAPD's Organized Crime Intelligence Division, is national secretary of the LEIU. Finck said Wednesday that he was unaware of any plans by the national organization to review the case.

One of the officers, John J. St. John, 53, a 25-year veteran of the department who specialized in the entertainment industry, took early retirement Feb. 5 after being questioned by department investigators. (He is not to be confused with John P. St. John, the homicide detective who inspired the television series "Jigsaw John.")

The other officer under suspicion, Louis Graham, 45, a specialist in the Gambino crime family who has worked for the department for 20 years, has been suspended for a month without pay.

When word of the purported leaks first surfaced earlier this year, police spokesmen sought to dismiss the incident as merely a case of officers getting "too close to their sources." In the ensuing months, however, new details of the investigation have emerged, from informed sources and in documents, that raise more questions.

The Times has learned that both officers have admitted to investigators that they accepted video and audio tapes from investigative targets, an apparent violation of department policy.

Moreover, there are new disclosures that St. John's name was overheard on a federal wiretap of suspected organized crime figures in Chicago, and that he was later caught passing on planted information in an FBI sting operation in Los Angeles.

Based on this information, law enforcement officials have now taken steps to determine whether investigations throughout the nation may have been compromised, including:

- A secret Chicago federal grand jury probe into possible bribes paid to union officials to obtain contracts for health benefit programs offered to government agencies, private companies and labor unions in Chicago, San Francisco, Honolulu, Baltimore and Washington.

The owner of two health benefits companies that were among the firms under investigation, Angelo T. Commito of Fairfax, Calif., is an acquaintance of a man who was in regular contact with St. John, law enforcement sources said.

Government investigators have reportedly executed search warrants to obtain documents in connection with the probe from several major labor unions, including the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Service Employees International and United Auto Workers and from such employers as Rockwell International Corp. and McDonnell Douglas Corp.

The government is also investigating possible ties between Commito's companies and organized crime figures in New York and Chicago, according to a variety of sources.

It was in this investigation that St. John's name first was overheard during one of the wiretaps. Commito's lawyers did not return phone calls for comment.

- A federal investigation in Los Angeles into suspected labor racketeering and organized crime infiltration in the movie industry. One focus of the investigation is sometime labor negotiator Martin Bacow, 66, a longtime friend of St. John and a man who FBI officials believe may have acted as a conduit for organized crime to collect payoffs for labor peace from movie industry officials, according to a confidential investigative report.

Bacow has vehemently denied the allegations, saying he performs labor negotiations as a favor for friends in the movie industry at no charge. He has also denied any business ties to organized crime, though he admits friendships with some organized crime figures.

"Nobody from organized crime do I deal with," Bacow said. "There's not one nickel ever been (exchanged) between organized crime and myself. They can't even come near me. This is an out-and-out lie."

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