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FBI, PI Confrontation Finally Brought Out in Open
By Alex Wood
Journal Inquirer
Manchester, CT
October 5, 2004

Federal 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 government.

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 administration.

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 lawyers say.

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 taken illegally.

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 ‘harassment.’”

“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 speed.

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,” Dannehy wrote.

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 prison.

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, Dannehy said.

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 lawyers say.

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