In a town that's no stranger to scandal, this might be one of the biggest -- a massive wiretapping scheme that might reveal Hollywood's darkest secrets and implicate some of the leading lawyers in show business and their celebrity clients.
It all centers on the actions of one man -- private eye to the stars Anthony Pellicano.
The 61-year-old came out of Chicago with a reputation for tough tactics and a knack for getting the dirt on just about everybody. Pellicano was the quintessential Hollywood gumshoe, boasting a client list that read like a who's who: John Travolta, Farrah Fawcett, Kevin Costner, Tom Cruise and Arnold Schwarzenegger among them.
"Pellicano is the last-resort guy, and no matter what you have to do to put a fire out for a celebrity, that's what you gotta do," said Paul Barresi, a former porn star and freelance private investigator who worked for Pellicano.
But other private investigators said that Pellicano employed some questionable tactics in getting information.
Private eye Richard DiSabatino, who has known Pellicano for more than a decade, put it this way: "He broke the law to satisfy his clients. And normal PIs don't do that."
But Pellicano's wise-guy persona was tailor-made for Hollywood. His mystique actually became the stuff of movies. Travolta reportedly modeled the lead character in "Get Shorty" -- mob-guy-turned-movie-man Chili Palmer -- after him.
"He was very friendly with him. With ... Travolta," said DiSabatino. "You know the fact where, uh, Chili Palmer would always say, 'Look into my eyes'? Well, that was Pellicano's favorite saying."
He called himself the "sin-eater" -- the ultimate Hollywood fixer. But his own "sins" have landed him in trouble with the law. He already served 2½ years in prison on weapons charges, and he's now facing a 110-count federal indictment for racketeering and conspiracy.
"What he did was basically set up wiretaps and listened in on people's communications that they believed were private without them knowing," said George Cardona, the U.S. attorney prosecuting the case.
According to prosecutors, Pellicano's gift for getting dirt was primarily a highly sophisticated illegal eavesdropping scheme. Pellicano allegedly paid two phone company employees thousands of dollars to help him listen in on Hollywood's secrets.
With the reams of information Pellicano allegedly got from the wiretaps, he seemed able to solve clients' problems with ex-wives, business rivals and even the law. With his reputation on the rise, it seemed that everyone in show business with a crisis came calling.
When Michael Jackson was accused of molesting a 13-year-old boy in 1993, it was Pellicano who produced a tape he said proved the boy's family was trying to extort money from the pop star. Eventually, the family agreed to settle, and no criminal charges were brought against Jackson.
In 1991, when a British tabloid paid a woman $30,000 for her story alleging an affair with Kevin Costner, his lawyer hired Pellicano and the story was killed before it appeared in the United States.
During the messy public divorce of Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, Pellicano was on the case for Cruise. But unbeknown to Pellicano, DiSabatino was hired by Kidman.
"So I put her on scramblers immediately," DiSabatino said. "So that, uh, if there was anybody who was eavesdropping, it wasn't gonna happen."