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FBI hears Pellicano threat

Los Angeles Times Staff Writers

In a threatening tape-recorded telephone call that is now in the hands of the FBI, private eye Anthony Pellicano warned Los Angeles attorney Peter Knecht that his longtime client must repay a loan to film executive Ron Meyer.

Knecht said in a recent interview that the call from Pellicano was aimed at intimidating businessman Bilal Baroody, who had borrowed $300,000 from Meyer, his longtime friend and onetime neighbor.

"It was obvious that he was attempting to intimidate Baroody through me," Knecht said. "I knew it was no joke."

A federal grand jury indictment handed up in February charging Pellicano and others with racketeering and illegal wiretapping says that Pellicano illegally accessed Baroody's police records in March 1999. Pellicano has pleaded not guilty to the federal charges.

After receiving Pellicano's call five years ago, Knecht said, he warned Baroody, whom he was representing in other legal matters, saying, "You better take care of business. These guys sound serious."

Neither Pellicano, who is in jail awaiting trial, nor his attorney could be reached for comment. Baroody, now living in Morocco, could not be contacted. Meyer, president of Universal Studios, declined to comment.

However, a person close to Meyer said that after the studio chief lent Baroody the money, he turned to another friend, Pellicano, because Baroody didn't pay up or return his phone calls seeking an explanation. The person also said Meyer did not know what strong-arm tactics, if any, Pellicano used to try to collect on the debt.

Knecht said he was reminded of the call late last year during a closed-door meeting with federal authorities on behalf of another client.

"They told me in detail about my conversation with Pellicano ... and it just blew me away," Knecht said.

A native of Lebanon who lived in Kuwait before moving to the U.S., Baroody later founded his own aviation company and made a fortune trading in aircraft parts, according to his ex-wife, Jacqueline Collins.

She said she was not aware of Meyer's loan to Baroody or of Pellicano's alleged efforts to collect it. But by 1997, the year the loan was made, Baroody had lost his business and was in dire financial straits, she said.

"He lost our two houses in Malibu," she said. "He lost everything."

For years before then, records and interviews show, Baroody and Meyer were neighbors and friends who lived next door to each other in the exclusive enclave of the Malibu Colony.

It was during that time, in 1988, that Baroody surfaced as a potential witness to an alleged assault by Meyer.

In a Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department report obtained by The Times from a former Pellicano employee, Meyer's then-girlfriend, Cynthia Garvey, accused Meyer of hitting her during an argument at his home shortly after midnight on Oct. 27, 1988. Garvey now goes by Cynthia Truhan.

Truhan went to the home to discuss "some problems that they were having with their relationship," the report states. When Truhan filed a complaint with sheriff's deputies, her "left eye was swollen and bruised, the left side of her cheek was swollen and she appeared to be having trouble talking," according to the incident report.

Sheriff's Det. John Cater, one of two deputies who responded to the call, told The Times recently that he recalled interviewing Truhan at her residence.

"I remember her being injured in some type of assault or altercation with a male, and I remember a neighbor who lived in the area named Baroody, that helped her and arranged for her to get home," said Cater. In a recent interview, Truhan confirmed the account in the Sheriff's Department report. She agreed to publicly discuss the incident for the first time only after being shown a copy of the report by The Times.

According to Truhan, she went to Meyer's home that night to discuss their relationship. She told Meyer she was leaving him and walked to her car. She said he pursued her and told her, "This will be over when I say it is over."

As she attempted to get inside her car, Truhan said, Meyer grabbed her and began striking her. She said Baroody and a limousine driver at his residence witnessed the incident.

"Bilal came out of his house, I remember that," she said. "I saw him before I was knocked out." When she came to, Truhan said, she had been driven back to her home in Baroody's limousine.

The day after the attack, she said, she was awakened early in the morning by an anonymous caller whose voice she did not recognize. "If you pursue this, it would not be good for you," the caller told her.

"That saying has been in my head for almost 20 years," Truhan said. "It was like from a bad novel."

Truhan, a single mother then recently divorced from baseball star Steve Garvey, said she decided not to press charges in the case because she and Meyer each had young daughters who would be traumatized by a criminal prosecution.

Collins, Baroody's ex-wife, recalled the incident and "heard the screams and the fighting" but saw no punches thrown.

"I looked out of my window and he was holding her up against the back of the wall," she said. "Ron was trying to restrain her. There was no violence that I saw."

Attorney Howard Weitzman, who represented Meyer at the time, said Friday that the district attorney's office dropped the case because of insufficient evidence.

Weitzman said he might have used Pellicano to investigate the Meyer incident in 1988, but he added that he had no "specific recollection" of doing that.

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