LOS ANGELES, July 11 (UPI) -- A Los Angeles Times reporter was said to be in hiding Thursday after receiving a menacing message related to her work on a story involving a reputed gang figure with ties to Hollywood.
Los Angeles police confirmed that someone smashed the windshield of Anita M. Busch's car in June, leaving behind a metal box containing a dead fish and a note that said, "Stop."
LAPD Sgt. John Pasquariello told United Press International the bomb squad examined the box and found the fish inside. Pasquariello said the incident was reported on June 20.
"Our organized crime and vice division is conducting the investigation because of the possibility of a connection to organized crime," said Pasquariello, "but we don't know that it is organized crime that is involved in this case."
Busch had been reporting on a June 4 federal indictment and arrest of 17 accused organized crime figures, including Anthony "Sonny" Ciccone, who was charged with extortion and threatening to kill action star Steven Seagal. Citing sources, the New York Daily News reported Thursday that Busch had resigned from the story and gone into hiding, but that the Times still planned to run the story she had been working on.
David Garcia, a spokesman for the Los Angeles Times, declined to comment on the report. Calls to Busch and her editor at the newspaper were not returned.
Days after the indictment was handed down, federal prosecutors in a Brooklyn, N.Y., courtroom alleged that Ciccone threatened to kill Seagal as part of a multimillion-dollar extortion scheme. During a hearing for the accused Gambino family docks boss, U.S. Attorney Andrew Genser said that Ciccone "demanded millions of dollars from (Seagal) and threatened his life."
Ciccone was ordered held without bail pending trial on a variety of racketeering charges.
Also named in the indictment was Hollywood producer Julius Nasso, who has partnered with Seagal to make such pictures as "The Patriot" (1998), "Fire Down Below" (1997), "The Glimmer Man" (1996) and "On Deadly Ground" (1994).
The indictment accused Nasso of taking part in a Gambino family plot to extort money from a Hollywood film figure. Nasso's attorney told reporters that the film star was Seagal, but Seagal's attorney would not confirm that at the time.
The indictment alleged that the extortion scheme began in September 2000 and continued until May 2002, with Ciccone, Nasso and two other suspects allegedly trying to extort money from Seagal "by wrongful use of actual and threatened force, violence and fear."
The Los Angeles Times reported that, according to papers filed by prosecutors in court, Ciccone is heard on a taped phone call telling Nasso to demand $150,000 per film from Seagal.
Nasso's lawyer, Barry Levin, said that after partnering with Seagal for 15 years in the movie business, Nasso filed a $60 million lawsuit against the actor in March, alleging that Seagal had reneged on a contract to perform in four movies. Levin said Nasso and Seagal had been negotiating a settlement but the talks were going nowhere -- and he intimated that Seagal went to the FBI as payback for Nasso's lawsuit, according to the Times.
Federal prosecutors said that all the victims were "reluctant" and frightened witnesses, and that none of the victims in the case "came to the government."
Pasquariello said police investigators "don't have a lot to go on" as they investigate the apparent attempt to intimidate Busch.
"I'm sure they're going to talk to their contacts and people in that world and see if there's any validity to make any connection to put it to one person or one organization," said Pasquariello.