Interviews & Articles]
PI Confrontation Finally Brought Out in Open
By Alex Wood
October 5, 2004
court documents made public Monday give the most comprehensive account to
date of a Sept. 3 confrontation between FBI agents and investigators
working for lawyers representing construction executive William A. Tomasso
and two of his companies in a case involving corruption in state
Tomasso’s lawyers charge in a court document that FBI agents harassed,
detained, and used force against private investigators conducting legal
surveillance of Lawrence E. Alibozek, who had been an aide to former Gov.
John G. Rowland. Alibozek pleaded guilty to a corruption charge, and is
now cooperating in the federal investigation of Rowland’s
At one point during the detention and search of the investigators, which
occurred as they conducted surveillance outside a New Hartford restaurant
where Alibozek was meeting his wife, an FBI agent realized that the
investigator’s video surveillance system was still on, Tomasso’s
They say the agent uttered an expletive and said, “This thing’s live!
It’s recording, it’s still alive! Where’s the audio for this
thing?” The agent then turned the video surveillance system off,
the Tomasso lawyers say. They add that one of the FBI agents dropped
camera equipment several times, grinning at the private investigators each
time and saying, “Oops.”
Moreover, they say, FBI agents, acting without a search warrant, seized
notebooks, papers, camera equipment, and numerous other items from the
investigators — and the agents read the written materials at the scene
despite the investigators’ claims that they were legally privileged.
The Tomasso lawyers are asking Senior Judge Peter C. Dorsey — who is
presiding over the criminal prosecution of Tomasso, his companies, former
Rowland aide Peter N. Ellef, and Ellef’s son in U.S. District Court in
New Haven — to order return of the seized property, which they say was
But a federal prosecutor has charged that the investigators had instilled
fear in Alibozek and his family by tactics such as following Alibozek in a
car that “bumper locked” him for an extended distance and conducting
surveillance of their home in rural New Hartford.
The federal prosecutor, Nora R. Dannehy, said in a letter attached to the
Tomasso court filing that the conduct of the private investigators was
“harassing, intimidating, and illegal.”
The Tomasso lawyers, John R. Fornaciari of Washington and Thomas J. Murphy
of Hartford, reply, however, that the “bumper locking” allegation is
the only one Dannehy has made “that is even colorable as
“But the FBI did not seize any vehicle from the investigators, nor did
the agents scrape any paint from any vehicle to back up this dubious
claim,” the Tomasso lawyers write. “The FBI preferred the work product
of the claimant’s lawyers, not the instrumentalities of any alleged
crime, and to intimidate lawful private investigators gathering
information on a public street.”
Materials prepared by lawyers getting ready for trial, including the
materials generated by investigators and others they hire, are protected
by what is known as a lawyer’s “work product” privilege.
Dannehy says in her letter that the “bumper locking” incident occurred
Aug. 23, when Alibozek was followed “the entire way into town.” He
reported being followed again on Aug. 25, Aug. 27, and Aug. 31, sometimes
with family members in his car, as vehicles at times whizzed by at high
On Aug. 29, the prosecutor wrote, Alibozek’s son, Luke, was home alone
when a beige sport utility vehicle began driving slowly back and forth in
front of the family’s driveway, then parked in front of the driveway,
blocking it. Luke Alibozek called his parents, who came home immediately
to find the beige vehicle parked across the street.
“Larry Alibozek had words with the driver and took his picture,”
She added that the investigation has revealed that the vehicles involved
in the incident were leased by people associated with the Murzin-Thibault
Investigative Group, a Litchfield-based private investigative agency.
The principals of the agency are Richard Murzin, a retired Hartford police
detective, and Andy Thibault, a journalist, who teaches journalism and
communications at the University of Hartford.
She said the man in the driveway incident appears from the photographs to
be Murzin’s son Ian, who she said has criminal convictions for
threatening, criminal trespass, and other offenses and has spent time in
The Sept. 3 confrontation occurred around 10 a.m. as Murzin-Thibault
investigators conducted surveillance in and outside Chatterly’s Bar and
Restaurant in New Hartford, the Tomasso lawyers say.
According to Dannehy, the FBI received two panicked calls from
Alibozek’s wife, Leah, who reported that she recognized a car outside
the restaurant and “her heart stopped and she broke out in a cold
sweat.” Inside the restaurant, a man was sitting one seat from her
husband whom he identified as someone who had previously followed
him. FBI agents went to the restaurant in response to the calls,
According to the Tomasso lawyers, an investigator — identified by
Dannehy as another of Murzin’s sons, Stephen — parked an SUV some 150
yards from the restaurant and was setting up surveillance inside his car
when two cars blocked him in.
An FBI agent yanked open the passenger’s door of the SUV and yelled,
“What are you doing here?” according to the Tomasso lawyers.
Stephen Murzin replied, “I’m testing my equipment,” they say.
At that point, they continue, another FBI agent opened the driver’s side
door of the SUV, dragged Stephen Murzin out, threw him up against the side
of the vehicle, and said, “You’re testing equipment? Do you know that
lying to federal agents is a crime?”
Stephen Murzin replied that he wanted to remain silent and see his lawyer,
but the agents continued to question him and one said, “You are going to
prison if you don’t cooperate,” according to the Tomasso lawyers.
While he and another investigator were detained, they were ordered to
remove their shirts and were photographed without them, the Tomasso