SANTA ANA, Calif. – A private investigator working for a law firm retained by the Costa Mesa Police Officers’ Association (CMPOA) was convicted today of committing crimes against two Costa Mesa council members and a competitor attorney. Christopher Joseph Lanzillo, 46, Lake Arrowhead, pleaded guilty to the court to 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. Lanzillo faces a maximum sentence of four years and four months in jail, as well as revocation of his private investigators’ license, at his sentencing on Jan. 13, 2017, at 9:00 a.m. in Department C-29, Central Justice Center, Santa Ana.
Co-defendant Scott Alan Impola, 48, Canyon Lake, is facing the same charges and is scheduled for jury trial on March 15, 2017, at 9:00 a.m. in Department C-5, Central Justice Center, Santa Ana.
Lanzillo was convicted of and Impola is accused of committing the following crimes:
At the time of the crimes, Lanzillo and Impola worked as private investigators for the former Upland-based law firm 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 purchased a GPS monitoring device using the alias Robert Teller with Teller Investigations.
Then-Councilman and now-Mayor Stephen Mensinger
Between July 25, 2012, and Aug. 22, 2012, Lanzillo and Impola conspired to place a GPS tracking device on the vehicle of Mensinger without his knowledge or permission. Lanzillo and Impola used the GPS device to illegally track Mensinger’s location.
Then-Councilman and now-Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer
On Aug. 22, 2012, Righeimer and Councilman Gary Monahan were at the restaurant Skosh Monahan’s in Costa Mesa. Impola conducted an operation searching for evidence to use against Monahan’s political career. Lanzillo arrived near the restaurant a short time later.
Lanzillo and Impola communicated with each other and LDME Managing Partner Dieter Dammeier using their cell phones and through text messages. At approximately 5:45 p.m., 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 Righeimer’s vehicle. Lanzillo falsely reported 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. Righeimer was detained outside his home during the investigation.
After administering a sobriety test and not observing any objective symptoms of intoxication, the officer determined that Righeimer was not under the influence, and he was released. It was later determined that 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 conspired 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 used 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.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Robert Mestman of the Special Prosecutions Unit is prosecuting this case.
Lanzillo’s Statement from the Advisement and Waiver of Rights for a Felony Guilty Plea
“In Orange County, California, on and between 6/19/12-8/24/12 I and Scott Impola did unlawfully conspire together and with another person to commit the crime of unlawful use of electronic tracking device against Stephen Mensinger and Robert Wexler, in violation of Penal Code section 637.7(a). And on or about Aug. 22, 2012 did unlawfully violate the personal liberty of Jim Righeimer by fraud and deceit. And on or about 8/22/12, I and Scott Impola did unlawfully conspire together and with another person to commit the crime of falsely reporting a crime to agency in violation of Penal Code section 148.5(c).”
*Co-defendant in this case is scheduled to face trial in March 2017
Orange County District Attorney / Case # 14CF3962 / September 28, 2016