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Theft of Jolie-Pitt Photos Probed

Pictures shot by the actress' brother were allegedly stolen and offered for sale.

July 04, 2006|Richard Winton | Times Staff Writer

Angelina Jolie's brother was one of the lucky few on hand in Namibia a few months ago for a baby shower honoring the actress and her boyfriend, Brad Pitt.

James Haven snapped more than 400 photos on his digital camera. But when he got back to Los Angeles, he realized that the camera had malfunctioned, so it was sent to a store for repair.

Now Los Angeles prosecutors and the U.S. Secret Service are investigating whether two employees at the repair firm that got the camera saw Pitt and Jolie's images and tried to sell them to tabloids and celebrity websites.

Westfield, Mass. police, along with the Secret Service and Massachusetts state police, last week searched the home of Bill Keyes and his workplace at Precision Camera Repair in Enfield, Conn.

Westfield police, who were working in conjunction with the L.A. County district attorney's office, said they recovered the camera at Precision as well as a memory stick that contained the images.

Sandi Gibbons, a spokeswoman for the district attorney's office, confirmed that an investigation is underway but declined to comment.

Keyes' home phone was disconnected Monday and he could not be reached for comment. Investigators are trying to determine whether a second man at the company helped obtain the images, law enforcement sources said.

Authorities said they became aware of the situation after someone began sending e-mails to celebrity websites and publications touting photos from the event in Namibia.

Celebrity Baby Blog's Danielle Friedland said her website received an e-mail offering 450 pictures in late June.

"On this memory stick are personal photos of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt and their children," the e-mail stated. "I am contacting you ... to see what the photos may be worth. I am attaching 3 photos so you can verify the authenticity of them ..."

The e-mail came just a week after the couple had sold exclusive baby photos of their new daughter Shiloh Nouvel Jolie-Pitt to publications for more than $5 million, which they donated to charity

"They sent some sample photos to prove they were real," Friedland said. One of the photos, of the couple in feather boas, was inadvertently posted on the Baby Blog website on June 24 but was taken down within 12 hours, she said, once she realized its origins.

She and others received cease-and-desist letters from Pitt and Jolie's attorneys, warning them the images were "stolen photos."

"We understand that the person who stole the stolen photos or an accomplice has been offering them for sale to the various media outlets ... " wrote attorney Yael E. Holtkamp. "Furthermore, if any monies are paid for the purchase of the stolen photos, you will be engaged in the purchase of stolen property."

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