A phony movie company set up in Santa Monica as an FBI sting operation has led to the indictments of three organized crime figures and a Teamsters Union officer on charges of attempting to bribe union officials in Boston and Las Vegas, federal agents said Tuesday.
The "David Rudder Productions" sting was so convincing that its Wilshire Boulevard office attracted dozens of writers and others interested in the motion picture business who mistook it for a legitimate film company, according to Patrick Marshall, the FBI agent who supervised the four-year operation.
"We were constantly receiving phone calls from people with scripts and people looking for employment," Marshall said. "We had to fight them off with a stick."
The FBI said that Francis P. Salemme Jr., 35, Dennis D. Lepore, 45, and Thomas L. Hillary, 47, all associates of the Patriarca Family of La Cosa Nostra in the Boston area; and William W. Winn, 61, who supervises all Teamsters members working on movies shot in New England, were indicted by a federal grand jury in Boston last month.
The indictments, which were unsealed Tuesday morning, accuse them of setting up "sweetheart" agreements under which Rudder could film motion pictures in Boston, Las Vegas and Providence, R.I., without using union employees.
Salemme was arrested before dawn Tuesday at a hotel in downtown Boston and held in lieu of $200,000 bail. Winn surrendered Tuesday afternoon in Boston and was released on $250,000 bail. Both men are scheduled for arraignment before U.S. Magistrate Robert E. Collings in Boston on July 28. In addition, Salemme is scheduled to appear in Los Angeles Superior Court on Aug. 17 on an unrelated charge of defrauding an innkeeper here in December, 1990.
Lepore is in custody at a federal prison, where he is serving a 14-year sentence on racketeering and related charges, the FBI said. Hillary, the adopted son of the late crime boss Raymond Patriarca Sr., remained at large Tuesday night.
If convicted, each defendant faces a maximum sentence of five years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000 on each of the counts in the indictment. Salemme faces eight counts, Lepore is named in two counts and Hilliary and Winn are charged in four counts.
Marshall said the sting operation was set up in a suite of offices at 2811 Wilshire Blvd. four years ago as a spinoff of an investigation into reports of possible labor racketeering in the film industry.
"We staffed the place with FBI personnel," Marshall said. "We rented film equipment to use as props, and we set up production offices that were located in Providence. We had a script, and we were actually prepared to produce a movie--a low-budget film--if necessary. . . .
"We did it all to impress the bad guys," Marshall said. "I think it worked."
Marshall said that, using "cooperative witnesses," the agent posing as David Rudder was introduced to Cosa Nostra associates in the Boston area in 1989.
According to the indictment, the agent gave the defendants at least $65,000, a portion of which they were supposed to use to bribe union officials in Boston and Las Vegas so that movies could be made there using non-union personnel.
In addition to Teamsters Local 25 in New England and Teamsters Local 995 in Las Vegas, the deal included Local 720 of the International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees in Las Vegas, the FBI said. Officials said several of the meetings between the undercover agent and the defendants were recorded on videotape, including a meeting at the film company offices in Santa Monica.
Correspondent Milton Gun in Boston contributed to this story. It was written by Malnic in Los Angeles.