A Ventura County businessman was charged Monday with masterminding a murder-for-hire plot that culminated in the stabbing death of his estranged wife in the parking garage of a Century City high-rise in July, authorities said.
James Fayed is charged with capital murder for allegedly paying the manager of his Moorpark ranch $25,000 to help arrange the slaying of his estranged wife, Pamela, with whom he was involved in bitter divorce proceedings, authorities said.
Neither Fayed nor the manager, Jose Luis Moya, are believed to have actually wielded the knife in the July 28 attack, according to law enforcement sources familiar with the case. The actual killer is believed to be a gang member whom Moya knows and recruited to commit the attack, according to the sources who asked not to be named because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the case.
Investigators "anticipate the arrests of additional suspects," LAPD Deputy Chief Charlie Beck said at a news conference Monday evening.
Fayed, 45, and Moya, 47, are accused of lying in wait and committing a murder for financial gain -- special circumstances that could prompt prosecutors to seek the death penalty -- according to a criminal complaint filed Monday in Los Angeles County Superior Court.
After he became a suspect, Fayed allegedly sought to have Moya killed so he would not be able to testify against him, the law enforcement sources said. One source said authorities have "a recording" of Fayed implicating himself in Pamela Fayed's murder.
Fayed's attorney, Mark Werksman, said his client denies having anything to do with his wife's slaying.
"It's one thing for the district attorney to spin theories in a criminal complaint," said Werksman, a former federal prosecutor. "But it's quite another to prove a case in court. We look forward to challenging this evidence in court where we will seek vindication for Mr. Fayed."
Fayed was already in federal custody after having been charged last month with making unlicensed money transactions through the international gold trading business that he and his wife ran.
The company, described by one federal prosecutor as a Ponzi scheme in which individuals had invested up to $20 million, was under investigation by the FBI for fraud before Pamela Fayed's slaying, authorities said.
Pamela Fayed had offered to cooperate in the probe, a federal prosecutor said in a court hearing last month. She was killed shortly after meeting with an attorney, but authorities declined to say what the meeting was about.
In documents released Monday, prosecutors said James Fayed rented a Suzuki SUV on July 3. Three weeks later, the vehicle was driven to the Century City office complex where Pamela Fayed met with the attorney. The vehicle was then seen -- and captured by a video surveillance camera -- leaving the scene shortly after Pamela Fayed was attacked. The SUV was then driven to Fayed's Moorpark ranch, and Moya returned it to the rental agency the next morning, authorities allege.
Pamela Fayed and her husband had been locked in a bitter dispute over the dissolution of their marriage and control of their business, according to court documents and interviews. Pamela Fayed said in court filings that the couple had an estimated $12 million in various bank accounts and that her husband had been blocking her access to the couple's business records. She was killed the day before a hearing in which her husband could have been ordered to pay about $1 million in spousal support, attorneys fees and court sanctions, authorities said.
Though James Fayed was facing far less serious charges in the federal case, federal prosecutors successfully sought to have him held without bail as the Los Angeles Police Department proceeded with its investigation. Assistant U.S. Atty. Mark Aveis argued that Fayed was a danger to the community and a flight risk.
To support that assertion, Aveis recounted a threat from her husband that Pamela Fayed confided to a friend before her death.
"I could have you killed and my hands would be clean," she quoted her husband as saying, according to Aveis. James Fayed allegedly punctuated the statement by rubbing his hands together as if to wipe them clean.
At Aveis' request, a federal judge dismissed the money transaction charges against Fayed, paving the way for county prosecutors to pursue the murder case.