MANNIX DEPRESSIVE

AFTER YEARS OF SPYING ON OTHERS, DENVER PRIVATE EYE PETE PETERSON FINDS THE SIGHTS SET ON HIM.SNOOP DREAMS PETE PETERSON SAYS HE'S THE PRIVATE EYE TO THE STARS. BUT DOES HE JUST HAVE STARS IN HIS EYES?

Whatever the status of his office situation in the Golden State, Peterson claims he spent much of 1989 "doing a lot of work" for California celebrities.

Peterson, for instance, says he was hired to tail Roseanne Barr's love interest, actor Tom Arnold, although he won't say who paid the tab. It's a typical Peterson tease. In a 1993 magazine interview, Peterson dropped the names Elizabeth Taylor, H. Ross Perot and Adnan Khashoggi. One of them, he told the reporter, was a client. But he declined to say which one.

Despite his habit of dropping names, Peterson spent most of his time in the years following the Roseanne case consumed in the less glamorous business of pursuing the hidden stashes of S&L debtors. By 1993, he claims, upwards of 40 percent of his income came from the FDIC. And because his fees range from $100 to $125 per hour, the FDIC proved to be a lucrative client.

Even Peterson's detractors admit he's a wiz at tracking down hidden assets. Much of that has to do with his talent for utilizing commonly available public records. Some of it has to do with his computer expertise and a database he says contains "every source known to man." And some of it has to do with the fact that Peterson is not averse to employing what he freely calls "fairly devious techniques."

"I've heard investigators say that our code of ethics would fit on a matchbook," Peterson says. "The rules are, don't double-cross a client and don't break the law. But we do things lawyers can't. We're devious, we use ruses, sure. But police departments all over the world do that every day. Look at stings. That's the way you investigate."

Peterson's firm may have someone pose as a travel agent to get information, he says. Then there's the "secretary ruse"--phoning a businessperson and pretending to be an associate's secretary--or "the reporter ruse," in which the investigator pretends to be researching information for an article.

"In my opinion," says Denver private investigator Rick Johnson, "lawyers would raise their eyebrows at [Peterson's] methods." In Colorado, adds Johnson, a former Denver district attorney's investigator, using deceit to obtain proprietary information such as financial data "is a felony."

Peterson, however, has openly bragged about using just such investigative techniques in his savings-and-loan cases. And that S&L work has provided him with plenty of good publicity--even if some of it was overstated.

In late 1990 Peterson was hired by Capitol Federal Savings to look into the finances of a company called M&L Business Machines. His task was to verify M&L's inventory, which the company had put up as collateral for a $6 million loan. But when Peterson began checking, he found contradictory business statements and little else. On February 4, 1991, frustrated by efforts to assess the company's assets and inventory, court-appointed bankruptcy trustee Christine Jobin began going through sealed boxes of "computer equipment," only to discover that the cartons were filled with bricks and dirt. Peterson was present when Jobin uncovered the company's scheme only because U.S. marshals had been unavailable to provide security. Somehow, though, Peterson eventually became the hero, credited with uncovering one of the nation's largest Ponzi schemes.

Within a year, Peterson's growing reputation would win him back an old client with a hefty reputation of his own: Marvin Davis came back into the fold.

end of part 1

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