Private Eye Had To Go Public, And Didn't Especially Like It

Paddy Calabrese, ex-federal informant, former protected witness, one-time Mafia gunman who robbed the Buffalo, N.Y., City Hall, and real-life antagonist of the book and movie ``Hide In Plain Sight'' - says he did nothing.

Fortunately, when Paddy Calabrese, Seattle private eye, is involved, ``nothing'' usually means something of a story.

In this installment, the confidential phone records of a Seattle stockbroker he was investigating may have been sent to Calabrese's office in Pioneer Square. Just a coincidence, Paddy insists.

``It's all b.s. We're denying everything,'' he says. ``This is harassment by someone who has nothing else to do. It's all about nothing.''

Nothing - like revenge, for example. His angry nemesis - Seattle stockbroker Olav Ruud - certainly wouldn't mind Getting Even as well as collecting damages.

That's part of the reason Calabrese was recently hauled into an attorney's office and grilled about his own background and his trade secrets.

The deposition was the result of a lawsuit brought by Ruud against the telephone company, U.S. West, which Ruud says negligently sent his personal phone records to Calabrese.

Though denying he received the records, Calabrese does admit he was interested in Ruud's relationship with a Seattle woman, a local banker, on behalf of his client, a Chicago woman described as Ruud's ex-girlfriend.

Although U.S. West has won an edge in the case with a limited summary judgment, the suit continues in King County Superior Court. In public papers, the company admits to sending Ruud's phone records to 95 Yesler Way, Calabrese's address, at the request of someone who said he was Ruud.

But Ruud says he never asked for the copies and claims the company violated policy by sending the records to an address other than the customer's. Adds Ruud's attorney (and state senator) Phil Talmadge:

``Under something like this, anyone can call up and pretend to be the customer and obtain his or her records.''

While the two sides hash that one out, Calabrese sits somewhere in the middle, denying everything, including that he was the man the company said requested the records in a voice that possibly had a New York accent.

Responds Paddy, in his native New York accent, ``From the start of this when investigators come up to talk to me about this from the phone company, I don't have no idea what they're talking about.''

Calabrese says he is just a good guy doing a good service, which is running the Inter-Tel Detective Agency and specializing in unrequited love affairs (his motto is: ``Surveillance Begins Where Trust Ends.'') He opened the business a few years ago after moving from Spokane.

Once upon a time, many people wanted to see Calabrese move to the graveyard after he named names in testimony about organized crime in New York.

He later changed his name and relocated with some government assistance. Hiding with him were the ex-wife and children of a New York man, whose search for the kids was told in the movie ``Hide in Plain Sight'' starring James Caan. (The book by the same name describes Calabrese as a master ``con man.'')

Calabrese had to dredge up some of that past as well as some insider details in his recent deposition, all to the great delight of Ruud. The private eye had to go public, and, under questioning by Talmadge, expressed some dislike for this.

``When was the last time that you talked to (the Chicago woman)?'' asked Talmadge.

``Oh,'' said Calabrese, ``probably about a week ago, when we were going for this deposition. I told her your . . . boyfriend is wasting my time and my money and everything else and I don't appreciate this.''

Calabrese talked about once robbing Buffalo City Hall of taxpayer cash at gunpoint, doing four years in various prisons, and testifying against big-time crime figures.

He admitted he lost his bar license at a joint in Spokane (Sherlock Holmes' Cafe and Precinct House) whose financial backing was obtained by a local police lieutenant, said he got nailed on a bad check charge and was hard put to remember the aliases he's used over the years in local and federal undercover operations.

But in Seattle he's been clean, the ex-Mafioso said, and recently hired retired Seattle police Detective Gene Birkland - whom he once worked with undercover - as an associate.

Talmadge asked what services he provided the Chicago woman.

``She wanted to find out, you know if he (Ruud) was dating her (the Seattle woman) and what they were doing together, playing racquetball together or doing whatever together, house-sitting together or what. And we told her we would put her in touch with this person because she wanted to see her face, her body, what she looked like.''

How did he find out details about the local woman?

Calabrese (reluctantly): ``Well, I just did a basic investigation. We followed her, got a license plate number, ran her license plate and that's it. We knew where she lived and we found out where she worked after that.''

He added later:

``We went to her apartment and looked at the apartment complex with the client . . . And then we turned around and decided to see (the Seattle woman) at the bank under the false pretense of purchasing a loan or getting involved with some kind of real-estate deal with her. I sent one of my investigators over there with (the Chicago woman) and that's what we did . . .''

What was it the Chicago woman sought?

``. . . She wanted to find out, you know, talking about the jealousy aspect area. I mean she just wanted to see what (the Seattle woman) looked like, if she was better looking than her or something. I get this all the time . . .''

And how much did all this cost her? Calabrese wouldn't say.

``Whatever I received I would turn around and do what I am supposed to do for my U.S. government of America, to file my taxes just like you do.''

As he told me later: ``I do everything legal. This is about nothing. Nothing!'' Yes, and so much of it.

Rick Anderson's column appears Monday, Wednesday and Friday in the Northwest section of The Times.