SACRAMENTO — It was an act of unbridled brazenness.
Alan Robbins, then a powerful state senator, had already extorted $225,000 from a San Diego hotel developer.
But the Van Nuys Democrat wanted more, demanding that developer Jack Naiman also pay $13,000 in taxes owed on the extortion money.
Naiman, fearing that Robbins could put him out of business, agreed. Weeks later, in early 1989, the La Jolla businessman handed an envelope full of cash to a woman whom Robbins sent to Naiman's room at the Century Plaza Hotel.
The details of how Robbins--allegedly with the help of Coastal Commissioner Mark L. Nathanson--put the squeeze on one of San Diego's major developers--are revealed in a 63-page affidavit, made available in federal court for the first time this week. The document, a statement by FBI Special Agent James J. Wedick, was used to justify a 1990 search of Nathanson's Beverly Hills home.
Earlier this month, Nathanson pleaded not guilty to the charges of extortion, racketeering, tax fraud and obstruction of justice. He resigned from the coastal panel and is free on $150,000 bail pending a trial scheduled for February. Robbins last week began serving a five-year sentence in the federal prison camp at Lompoc, after pleading guilty to racketeering and income tax evasion.
Because Robbins did not go to trial, many details of his extortion of Naiman have never been revealed.
In effect, the document provides an anatomy of a shakedown.
The affidavit shows how Robbins collected the money and laundered it through intermediaries, steering some to women friends, including one who had been arrested twice on prostitution charges. The account is based in part on interviews with Jerry Simms, a former Pasadena car dealer, and Naiman, who were granted immunity by prosecutors.
The story begins in 1987, when Naiman, now 50, was pushing to complete financing of what would become the Aventine Hyatt and office complex, a few miles from the La Jolla shoreline.
However, the Sheraton chain planned a hotel nearby overlooking the bluff-top Torrey Pines municipal golf course.
Naiman turned for help to a friend, Simms, who led an unsuccessful campaign at San Diego City Hall to block the rival hotel. Simms suggested that Naiman call Robbins.
"Robbins told him to call back from a public telephone booth," wrote Agent Wedick, who noted that similar instructions were given whenever Robbins wanted to discuss a "sensitive" subject. According to the court document, Naiman "asked Robbins what it would take to stop" the Sheraton.
In a later conversation, Robbins said that stopping the rival hotel "was going to be very expensive." Robbins wanted to meet with Naiman, but the developer stalled.
However, Naiman did call Nathanson, who as a member of the California Coastal Commission could help block the hotel. "The conversation was brief and very preliminary," according to the court papers.
Later, according to Wedick's account, "an absolutely berserk" Nathanson screamed over the phone at Simms because of Naiman's failure to meet with Robbins.
Naiman agreed to a June 4, 1987, meeting with Robbins. At Pennisi's Cafe two blocks from the Capitol, Robbins told the developer that he had "got a lot of people angry. . . . And you are going to owe a lot of money." If Naiman failed to come up with $250,000, Robbins warned, important people were going to shut his business down.
Naiman was taken by surprise, saying he no longer sought Robbins' assistance. "Whatever has been done, unwind the deal," he told the senator, according to the affidavit.
But Robbins said that it was too late, that Naiman would have to pay the money, and Naiman felt that he had no choice.
At Robbins' direction, he made the first payment the next day--$28,000 in cash, which Naiman gathered in amounts of less than $10,000.
Naiman delivered the cash to Robbins at the Century City law office of Burt Pines, former Los Angeles city attorney. There is no suggestion that Pines was aware of the transaction.
Nathanson's secretary at the time, Mary O'Connor, told the FBI that at a social function on the same day the coastal commissioner showed her "an envelope full of cash, indicating that Robbins had just given it to him."
Over the course of the next six months, Robbins directed Naiman to make other payments as well, including $50,000 to the prestigious law firm of Wyman, Bautzer, Christensen, Kuchel & Silbert, which credited the payment to Nathanson. When Naiman became concerned over the paper trail connecting him to the coastal commissioner, the money was returned.
Naiman personally delivered a second cash payment of $27,000 to Robbins at his Encino home.
At one point, Naiman asked Robbins if Nathanson could be violent. Robbins said that he "could be"--reinforcing Naiman's fear that Nathanson "might try physically to harm him if he did not accede to Robbins' demands."
Later, Naiman paid $60,536 that Robbins owed to another Southern California law firm--Howard, Kulik & Chizever. A month later, Naiman sent Robbins a check for $42,000.
Between June, 1987, and the following February, Naiman paid $45,000 to a public relations company run by a former Robbins aide, Jennifer Goddard.
The Goddard Co. over the years paid out $18,730 to women who are described in the court document as "Robbins' female friends," one of them a 35-year-old woman who had been arrested once for prostitution and once for living in "a house of ill fame."