SANTA ANA, CA Two private investigators who were working for a law firm conducting “candidate research” on the Costa Mesa City Council have been arrested on suspicion of committing crimes against two council members and an attorney competitor.
Christopher Joseph Lanzillo, 45, of Lake Arrowhead and Scott Alan Impola, 46, of Canyon Lake have each been charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit a crime of unlawful use of electronic tracking device, a count of false imprisonment by deceit and a count of conspiracy to commit a crime of falsely reporting a crime to an agency, according to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.
Lanzillo and Impola worked as private investigators for the former Upland-based law firm of Lackie, Dammeier, McGill and Ethir at the time of the crimes. The Costa Mesa Police Officers’ Association retained the firm to conduct “candidate research,” including surveillance on Costa Mesa city council members, in the months leading up to the November 2012 election, authorities said.
Prosecutors say Lanzillo and Impola conspired to place a GPS tracking device on the car of Councilman Stephen Mensinger and using it to illegally track his whereabouts from July 25, 2012, to Aug. 22, 2012. Lanzillo and Impola were also accused of searching for evidence to use against Councilman Gary Manahan, who owned Skosh Monahan’s restaurant and bar in Costa Mesa.
It was while they were watching Skosh Monahan’s that they saw Councilman Jim Righeimer leave the restaurant, prosecutors said. Lanzillo allegedly called 911 and falsely reported seeing a man stumble out of the restaurant and into a vehicle that matched the description of Righeimer’s car.
Righeimer was stopped and detained outside his home for driving under the influence but later released when he was found to be sober, officials said.
The two private investigators are also accused of placing a GPS device on the vehicle of an attorney at a law firm that was a competitor of Lackie, Dammeier, McGill and Ethir and illegally tracking the unnamed attorney.
Lanzillo and Impola are each being held on $25,000 bail. They both face a maximum sentence of four years and four months in jail, as well as revocation of their private investigators’ licenses.