Two Private Eyes Linked To Dammeier Law Firm Arrested

(December 12)  The Orange County District Attorney’s Office this week obtained and served arrest warrants for two private investigators who worked for a once-powerful but now defunct Upland-based police union law firm.
Christopher Joseph Lanzillo, 45, of Lake Arrowhead, and Scott Alan Impola, 46, of Canyon Lake, are each charged with two felony counts of conspiracy to commit a crime of unlawful use of an 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 an 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.
The law firm of Lackie, Dammeier, McGill, and Ethir specialized in the representation of police officers and their collective bargaining units. A significant number of the firm’s lawyers were former peace officers themselves. The firm had an impressive track record in court defending officers who had been charged with crimes and was no less successful at the pre-trial level in dissuading prosecutors from proceeding with cases against the firm’s clients as well as in obtaining favorable outcomes in representing officers being subjected to departmental discipline procedures.
Moreover, the firm had a defining reputation as an aggressive advocate for police unions with regard to contracts, salaries and benefits in  negotiations with the cities and agencies employing those unions’ officers. Indeed, the firm employed what many considered to be ruthless tactics in intimidating the elected leaders  and senior administrators of those municipalities and agencies, directing political campaigns that variously rewarded by keeping in office elected officials who cooperated with the union during collective bargaining sessions and opposing and thereby drumming out of office politicians who resisted the union’s demands. Some accused the firm, those in its employ and the members of at least some of the unions Lackie, Dammeier, McGill, and Ethir represented with crossing the line by seeking to or actually using extortion against elected officials.
In making a case against Lanzillo and Impola, the Orange County District Attorney will be attempting to verify, document and establish that such extortion attempts tool place.
According to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, at the time of the crimes Lanzillo and Impola were under the employ of  Lackie, Dammeier, McGill, and Ethir, engaging in political skullduggery. It has been established that the Costa Mesa Police Officers’ Association retained Lackie, Dammeier, McGill, and Ethir 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, according to Orange County Senior Deputy District Attorney Robert Mestman of the special prosecutions unit, Lanzillo is accused of purchasing a GPS monitoring device using the alias of Robert Teller with Teller Investigations. According to Mestman, between July 25, 2012, and August 22, 2012, Lanzillo and Impola conspired 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 Mensinger’s  location and movements.
Further, according to Mestman, Impola conducted an operation searching for evidence to use against Costa Mesa Councilman Gary Monahan to damage his political career. The criminal complaint against Impola states that on August 22, 2012, Costa Mesa City Councilmen Jim Righeimer and Monahan were at  Monahan’s Skosh Monahan’s restaurant and bar in Costa Mesa. Lanzillo is accused of arriving near the restaurant a short time later.
“Impola and Lanzillo communicated with each other and Lackie, Dammeier, McGill, and Ethir Managing Partner Dieter Dammeier by calling on their cell phones and through text messages,” according to Mestman. “At approximately 5:45 p.m. on August 22, 2012, councilman Righeimer left the restaurant in his vehicle and drove home after he had consumed two non-alcoholic beverages. Lanzillo called 911 and falsely reported 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 dispatched an officer to conduct an investigation. Councilman Righeimer was detained outside his home during this investigation for driving under the influence. Righeimer had in his possession two receipts for Diet Cokes he had purchased at Skosh Monahan’s. 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,” according to Mestman.
Further, according to Mestman, between June 21, 2012, and July 12, 2012, Lanzillo and Impola placed a GPS tracking device on the vehicle of an attorney at a law firm that was a competitor to the Lackie,  Dammeier, McGill, and Ethir 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.
According to Mestman the Costa Mesa Police Department cooperated in the matter and “provided reports and information to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office. We conducted an extensive investigation into all matters surrounding this incident. The investigation is on-going.”
Efforts to obtain statements from the former principals of the Lackie,  Dammeier, McGill, and Ethir firm were unsuccessful.

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