YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Cox Asks FBI to Look Into Slaying of O.C. Man

Crime: He says there is an 'enormous amount at stake for U.S.-Russian relations' in the Moscow killing of Paul Tatum.


Rep. Christopher Cox (R-Newport Beach) has called on the FBI to investigate the contract-style killing of Orange County businessman Paul Tatum in Moscow earlier this month.

In a letter to FBI Director Louis Freeh, Cox condemns Russia's "lawlessness," government corruption and ineffective law enforcement, and implores the bureau to investigate "so that this case will not be swept under the rug."

Tatum, a pugnacious 41-year-old Oklahoma native and veteran Republican fund-raiser, was ambushed Nov. 3 by a machine-gun wielding assailant as he emerged from a subway station in downtown Moscow. Tatum had been involved in a long-running power struggle for control of Moscow's Radisson-Slavjankskaya Hotel. The entrepreneur held a 40% stake in the luxury property through his Americom Business Centers, which until recently were based in Irvine.

Tatum is the first U.S. businessman to be slain in post-Soviet Russia, in what is suspected to be a contract hit orchestrated by the Russian Mafia and corrupt Moscow officials. The nation has experienced an explosion of organized crime since the fall of communism.

"There is an enormous amount at stake for U.S.-Russian relations in the handling of this matter," Cox said in a telephone interview Thursday. "Russia has a long track record of uninvestigated and unsolved contract killings. We cannot let this cavalier treatment of organized crime extend to the U.S."

At the time of his murder, Tatum had been waging a legal battle with the Moscow city government and the Radisson chain, which were the majority partners in the acrimonious venture. Tatum claimed his partners threatened him and attempted to evict him from his quarters at the hotel, prompting him to hire bodyguards and wear a bulletproof vest.

Cox, who once ran a company that translated the Russian-language newspaper Pravda into English, said Tatum appealed to him and other U.S. officials to intervene in the dispute, "but we were unsuccessful in winning him any relief."

Cox stayed in the Radisson-Slavjankskaya in March when he visited Moscow as an observer for the Russian elections. President Clinton and other high-ranking officials have stayed there as well. But Cox said visitors and business acquaintances refused to meet him at the hotel because of its reputation as a hangout for organized crime figures.

"They call it Mafia-R-Us," Cox said. "It is no longer a place where respectable people are seen."

Thus far, Moscow police report no suspects in the killing. Cox said it will take intense pressure by the United States and an outside agency like the FBI, which has offices in Moscow, to push Russian authorities to pursue the case. FBI officials could not be reached for comment.

Cox said he and the Republican leadership of the House of Representatives are in the process of drafting a letter to Russian President Boris Yeltsin urging swift attention to the matter.

"We have every reason to believe they can make progress if the decision is made at the highest levels," Cox said.

Los Angeles Times Articles