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Waste Management Profile Reference

Spying Allegations Raised in Garbage Dump Battle

by Tom Gorman
Los Angeles Times March 11, 1997

A consultant to Waste Management Inc.--the nation's largest trash company, and one that wants to create a huge garbage dump in the High Desert--wiretapped the phones of the project's main opponent and stole computer data from its offices, authorities alleged Monday.

The charges grew out of an unrelated criminal investigation into the consultant that turned up evidence linking Waste Management to the wiretap and computer data theft, said San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department spokesman Sgt. Paul Cappitelli.

A subsequent investigation, which began six months ago, in turn led to Friday's arrest of Glen Odell, project manager of Waste Management's Rail-Cycle landfill proposal east of Barstow. Odell, 55, of Irvine, was arrested on charges of wiretapping, unauthorized use and copying of computer data and criminal conspiracy.

The case came to light after the arrest in October of Joseph E. Lauricella, 46, of Twentynine Palms, on the unrelated computer-theft charges, Cappitelli said.

Cappitelli said evidence suggests that both men were involved in the wiretapping and computer data theft.

In the course of investigating Lauricella, evidence was found that computer data belonging to the Cadiz Land Co. had been taken without authorization, and that the company's phone lines had been wiretapped, Cappitelli said. Investigators also learned that Lauricella was a consultant to Waste Management, he said.

Cadiz, which farms several thousand acres near the proposed landfill site, actively opposed the Waste Management dump. San Bernardino County voters rejected the project in an election last year.

Lauricella--using the name Tony Bergschneider--was hired by Waste Management in May 1995 to speak in desert communities on behalf of the Rail-Cycle project, company spokeswoman Avis LaVelle confirmed Monday. He was fired after his arrest in October, she said.

LaVelle said Monday that the company stood behind Odell and that the charges against him "will be found baseless."

"He is an absolute straight shooter," she said.

Cadiz's attorney, Ben Reznik, said the alleged theft included lists of Cadiz investors and shareholders. "It looks like this was a retaliatory effort, trying to financially ruin Cadiz" to thwart the company's opposition to the landfill, he said.

Lauricella, investigators discovered, had been wanted in Santa Clara County on drug and grand-theft charges, Cappitelli said. He is now jailed there, and new charges are expected to be filed against him, Cappitelli said.

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