Big Business of Selling Celebrity Secrets

Fawcett was one of 30 high-profile patients, including Britney Spears and Maria Shriver, who had their personal files breached by Jackson. Jackson pleaded guilty and faced up to 10 years in prison but died of cancer two days before she was scheduled to be sentenced.

With the right credentials, accessing records is as easy as the click of a mouse or being at the right place at the right time. "There's a couple different ways they get the information," author Ahern said. "One is, they overhear it, two is, they see somebody that's famous in there, and they go and look for it."

Often tabloids will seek out workers on the inside, Ahern said, but some officials will actually reach out to them, hoping for a big payoff.

In the case of Parker's surrogate, Ohio Special Prosecutor T. Sean Hervey said, Martins Ferry Police Chief Barry Carpenter and Bridgeport Police Chief Chad Dojack allegedly used their police powers to gain access to her home and then contacted reporters.

"They are accused of burglarizing the home and attempting to sell that property," Hervey said. "When you live in a small town with a depressed economy, money is always tight. When people can throw around tens of thousands of dollars for a simple photograph of someone who is connected to a celebrity, I think it entices people a heck of a lot."

But selling information doesn't have to be a covert operation. Promises of big bucks for good gossip can be found on just about every tabloid Web site. Just click and send an e-mail.

TMZ's Harvey Levin: Paying for Tips Is Part of the Business

TMZ's Harvey Levin, who was the first to report Michael Jackson's death and to post the Rihanna photo, said paying for tips is a big part of the business.

"I think it's the biggest lie in the world that people don't pay for video and people don't pay for photos," he said. "If there's a tip that leads us to something, we'll pay for it, but we still have to get the story,."

Levin wouldn't say how he obtained the Rihanna photo, or if he paid for it. But when asked in a separate interview why he posted it in the first place, he said, "You folks released her name long before this, so did we, so did everybody. This picture was a really relevant picture based on what both sides were talking about."

As for paying for patient records, prosecutors allege that Lawanda Jackson received $4,600 for leaking patient records and had the checks made out to her husband to hide the money trail. Tabloids often hide the money that way, Ahern said.

"They always pay somebody else, and mostly cash," he said. "It can be a check too, but they have it down so they're hiding behind the First Amendment right if anything comes up, and you won't be able to find the trail. The organization that's working with the insider teaches them very quickly how things work, gives them the comfort and once they become a lead or a source for them, then they're in forever."

While leaking information is easy to get away with, many celebrities are trying to gain the upper hand. Tom Cruise told Oprah Winfrey he bought a sonogram machine, which can cost up to $200,000, to protect the privacy of his unborn child, Suri Cruise.

"Twelve hours after Kate tested [positive for her] pregnancy test, we went [to the doctor] in the middle of the night," he said. "Someone leaked it. ... Kate and I looked at each other and went, 'Man, I thought I was good setting this up.'"

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