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Victim offered to help feds in probe

Pamela Fayed wanted to aid an investigation into the gold firm she owned with her husband, official says.

August 06, 2008|Scott Glover | Times Staff Writer

About a month before she was stabbed to death in the parking garage of a Century City high-rise, Pamela Fayed notified federal prosecutors that she wanted to cooperate in a criminal probe into the international gold trading business she owned with her estranged husband, according to documents filed Tuesday in federal court.

Assistant U.S. Atty. Mark Aveis made the disclosure in an effort to convince a federal judge that James Fayed, whom the prosecutor described as "the primary suspect" in Pamela's death, is a danger to the community and a flight risk and should be held without bail.

James Fayed has not been charged with his wife's slaying, but he is facing a federal charge of operating an unlicensed money transmitting business. He has been in custody since Friday.

In an interview, Mark Werksman, James Fayed's attorney, accused prosecutors of "trying to create this cloud over my client to prejudice a judge in a relatively minor money exchange case."

He added, "If they have evidence of him committing a murder to silence a federal witness, then they should file those charges."

At a hearing Monday, Aveis told a federal magistrate judge that an SUV linked to the attack on Pamela Fayed was rented with a credit card bearing James Fayed's name. The prosecutor also said that Fayed had previously threatened his wife, with whom he was going through a bitter divorce, and said that he could have her killed "and my hands would be clean." Citing this and other evidence, Aveis asked U.S. Magistrate Judge Ralph Zarefsky to detain Fayed without bail.

But Zarefsky denied the request, citing "pretty thin" evidence connecting the murder charge to the federal case, and set bail for Fayed at $500,000. But he also ordered Fayed held until today to allow prosecutors to appeal his decision.

In an 11-page memo filed Tuesday requesting reconsideration of that ruling, Aveis argued that he needed only to show that Fayed was a danger and a flight risk, and that it wasn't necessary to connect those assertions to the federal case.

But as part of his argument, Aveis wrote that Pamela Fayed's defense attorney notified government prosecutors June 24 that "Pamela wanted to cooperate" with their investigation. That was a month before she was attacked by a knife-wielding man shortly after she and James Fayed met with attorneys in Century City.

Werksman said that even if Pamela Fayed had agreed to cooperate, "there's no way James would have known this. Therefore, there's no way this could have motivated him to commit a murder."

Aveis also noted in his filing that Fayed was likely to be ordered to pay about $1 million in spousal support, attorney fees and court sanctions at a hearing set for July 29, the day after his wife was killed.

Werksman countered that there were millions of dollars tied up in the couples' business and finances and that even if Fayed was ordered to pay such an amount it would not be a motive for murder.


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