Case # 14CF3962
Date: December 11,2014
TWO PRIVATE INVESTIGATORS WORKING FOR POLICE UNION LAW FIRM ARRESTED AND CHARGED WITH CONSPIRING TO COMMIT CRIMES AGAINST COSTA MESA COUNCILMEN AND AN ATTORNEY
SANTA ANA – Two private investigators working for a law firm retained by the Costa Mesa Police Officers’ Association (CMPOA) were arrested on charges of committing crimes against two Costa Mesa council members and a competitor attorney. Christopher Joseph Lanzillo, 45, Lake Arrowhead, and Scott Alan Impola, 46, Canyon Lake, are each charged with two felony counts of conspiracy to commit a crime of unlawful use of electronic tracking device, one felony count of false imprisonment by deceit, and one felony count of conspiracy to commit a crime of falsely reporting crime to agency. If convicted, Lanzillo and Impola face a maximum sentence of four years and four months in jail, as well as revocation of their private investigators’ licenses. They are each being held on $25,000 bail and are scheduled to be arraigned at a later date.
At the time of the crimes, Lanzillo and Impola are accused of working as private investigators for the former Upland-based law firm of Lackie, Dammeier, McGill, and Ethir (LDME). CMPOA retained LDME to conduct “candidate research,” including surveillance on Costa Mesa city council members, in the months leading up to the November 2012 election.
On June 19, 2012, Lanzillo is accused of purchasing a GPS monitoring device using the alias of Robert Teller with Teller Investigations.
Councilman Stephen Mensinger
Between July 25, 2012, and Aug. 22, 2012, Lanzillo and Impola are accused of conspiring together to place a GPS tracking device on the vehicle of Costa Mesa City Councilman Stephen Mensinger without his knowledge or permission. Lanzillo and Impola are accused of using the GPS device to illegally track the location of Councilman Mensinger.
Councilman Jim Righeimer
On Aug. 22, 2012, Costa Mesa City Councilmen Jim Righeimer and Gary Monahan were at Councilman Monahan’s Skosh Monahan’s restaurant and bar in Costa Mesa. Impola is accused of conducting an operation searching for evidence to use against Councilman Monahan’s political career. Lanzillo is accused of arriving near the restaurant a short time later.
Impola and Lanzillo are accused of communicating with each other and LDME Managing Partner Dieter Dammeier by calling on their cell phones and through text messages. At approximately 5:45 p.m., Councilman Righeimer left the restaurant in his vehicle and drove home after he had consumed two non-alcoholic beverages.
Lanzillo is accused of calling 911 and falsely reporting that he observed a man stumble out of the location and into a vehicle that matched the description of Councilman Righeimer’s vehicle. Lanzillo is accused of falsely reporting that the vehicle was swerving on the road and that the driver may be under the influence of alcohol or disabled.
The Costa Mesa Police Department (CMPD) dispatched an officer to conduct an investigation. Councilman Righeimer was detained outside his home during this investigation for driving under the influence.
After administering a sobriety test and not observing any objective symptoms of intoxication, the officer determined that Councilman Righeimer was not under the influence and he was released. It was later determined that Councilman Righeimer did not stumble out of the bar and was not swerving when he drove.
Between June 21, 2012, and July 12, 2012, Lanzillo and Impola are accused of conspiring together to place a GPS tracking device on the vehicle of an attorney at a law firm that was a competitor to the LDME firm without the victim’s knowledge or permission. Lanzillo and Impola are accused of using the GPS device to illegally track the location information of the victim.
CMPD provided reports and information to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office (OCDA). The OCDA conducted an extensive investigation into all matters surrounding this incident. The investigation is on-going.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Robert Mestman of the Special Prosecutions Unit is prosecuting this case.