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Police Witness Confirms ZZZZ Best Mafia Probe

November 16, 1988|KIM MURPHY | Times Staff Writer

The detective who has headed the Los Angeles police investigation into Barry Minkow's ZZZZ Best carpet cleaning company confirmed Tuesday that at least six of the purported organized crime figures, who Minkow has said extorted him for control of his company, are targets of an investigation into the company's collapse.

The testimony from Mike Brambles, a detective supervisor in the Los Angeles Police Department's organized crime division, was sought by defense attorneys to buttress Minkow's assertions that a series of mobsters collaborated in a massive swindle at his Reseda-based company. Minkow says they forced him to participate.

Called as the first defense witness after Minkow's 11-day testimony in federal court, Brambles confirmed in response to questions that half a dozen alleged organized crime figures or associates--including Maurice Rind and Richard Schulman of Encino--remain targets of the investigation more than a year after Police Chief Daryl F. Gates announced a probe into Mafia infiltration at ZZZZ Best.

Those six men have not been charged with crimes, although 10 other former ZZZZ Best associates have pleaded guilty in the federal case. Los Angeles police have not said when they expect their case to be completed.

Brambles also said detectives are continuing to investigate Michael Edward Consiglio, a former deputy district attorney who resigned in March after allegedly alerting Rind and Schulman that they were targets of the investigation.

Stock Offerings

The defense has been seeking to combat prosecutors' suggestions that Minkow engineered the plan to gain millions of dollars through public stock offerings and bank loans to ZZZZ Best by inflating the company's revenues with fabricated jobs supposedly repairing flood and fire damage to high-rise buildings.

Throughout the trial, the 22-year-old Minkow has sought to portray himself as an innocent with little financial know-how who was following orders generated by Rind, Schulman and others.

Brambles also appeared to undercut Minkow's claim that former ZZZZ Best associate Daniel Krowpman forced him to stage a telephone call, secretly taped by police, in which Minkow denied that there was any organized crime involvement at ZZZZ Best.

Minkow testified that he knew the call was being taped and had carefully rehearsed it with Krowpman, whom he said had repeatedly beat him and at one point attempted to rape him.

Brambles testified under questioning from prosecutors that Krowpman broke down and cried during an interruption in the phone call, cried when he was interviewed by police and supplied police with a number of documents incriminating of Minkow.

Krowpman, Brambles said, "made several statements saying that he felt bad about supplying these documents to us, with what had happened, because Barry Minkow was his friend."

Perched on Fence

Brambles also said he followed Minkow and a woman he later identified as Minkow's girlfriend into Schulman's Encino condominium. Although Minkow has said he was repeatedly threatened by Schulman, Brambles said the young entrepreneur appeared to be happy when he entered the house.

Brambles said he scaled a block wall adjacent to the house to peer into Schulman's second-story dining room and perched there, 25 feet above the ground, to watch the three talking inside. Schulman did not appear to be threatening Minkow, he said.

"Was that fence on private property?" Minkow's lawyer, David Kenner, asked.

"It was accessible to the public," Brambles replied.

"The top of the fence? For taking a walk?" Kenner asked.

"Certainly," the detective said.

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