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An FBI agent who questioned a former employee of Atlanta’s Gold Club found that his own behavior with the woman later became part of an aggressive counter-investigation by the club’s owner. Rob Burton, a former police officer and part-time private investigator, testified in U.S. District Court Monday that Gold Club owner Steven E. Kaplan and co-defendant Larry Gleit hired him to go to Las Vegas and interview Deborah Pinson, a former club employee who had been Kaplan’s girlfriend. Burton said Kaplan wanted to know if the FBI agent who had interviewed her “had made any kind of sexual advances toward Debbie to throw a monkey wrench in the case.” Added Burton, “She said he was an absolute, perfect gentleman. He was very professional.” Burton testified Monday in a hearing to determine if the court should revoke the $2 million bond of Kaplan, who federal prosecutors say is intimidating grand jury witnesses. Kaplan and 16 others — among them Gold Club managers, accountants, dancers, two Atlanta police officers and a man reputed to be a captain of a New York Mafia family — have been charged with racketeering, credit card fraud, money-laundering, loan sharking, bribery and prostitution. Last week, FBI agents arrested Kaplan at the office of his defense attorney, Steven H. Sadow, on new allegations of obstructing justice by harassing, intimidating and, in one case, physically assaulting government witnesses. U.S. Magistrate Judge E. Clayton Scofield III released Kaplan last Wednesday pending this week’s bond hearing. The bond revocation hearing continues today before U.S. Magistrate C. Christopher Hagy. TACTICS DESCRIBED Burton’s account of how he contacted Pinson offered more insight into what the defense team acknowledges are aggressive tactics. Burton has said he lied to Pinson and secretly taped their conversations in efforts to elicit comments that would be helpful for Kaplan’s defense. Burton was one of four people sent by Kaplan to contact Pinson, she said. She testified that she agreed to meet Burton for lunch because they were old friends. Pinson said he didn’t tell her that he was working for Kaplan but when he began asking questions about Kaplan, “It hit me in one flash. He was recording me, trying to get me to say something helpful to them.” Burton acknowledged during his testimony that he was recording her at Kaplan’s request. In addition to any personal relationship Pinson might have developed with an FBI agent, Burton said Kaplan wanted him to coax his former girlfriend into saying that Kaplan was never involved in any drug use or credit card fraud at the Gold Club. But Burton said, “Debbie said nothing went on without Steve’s approval.” Burton said he told Kaplan — who was also in Las Vegas while Burton was there — that “it was not a good tape” for him. But Kaplan told him, “hey could fix the tape however they needed it.” Barring that, Kaplan told him, “The tape can be lost,” Burton added. Sadow has insisted that the defense team has been aggressive and sent people to interview witnesses who were “not investigators in the traditional sense.” That aggressiveness, he insisted, never deteriorated into intimidation or harassment. But Assistant U.S. Attorney Arthur W. Leach told the court that the defense “has gone too far on numerous occasions. … This is a pattern of behavior.” Pinson angrily outlined four occasions, before and after she testified as a grand jury witness in September 1999, when she was contacted by Kaplan associates. Two of them, Patrick Doggrell and Lyle Goodman, subsequently were indicted with Kaplan. The remaining contacts were from men who knew Kaplan but whom Pinson had counted as friends and trusted until she realized they were working for her former boyfriend. Pinson said Doggrell called her at her unlisted home telephone number in Las Vegas shortly after the FBI had first contacted her. Goodman, she said, appeared poolside a short time later at the hotel where she worked as a cocktail waitress. He claimed his encounter with her was coincidental. Pinson testified that she didn’t believe him. “He just happened to be walking around the pool in a three-piece suit on a 110-degree day,” she said. He wanted to talk about Kaplan, she said. Pinson said she told both men she didn’t want to discuss the club or the investigation and wanted them to leave her alone. But the contacts by Kaplan associates didn’t stop. After she testified, a Kaplan associate whom Pinson knows only as “Jay the Boy” showed up at her house unannounced, rang the bell incessantly and pounded on the door for more than 15 minutes until Pinson called an FBI agent in Atlanta for help. “Jay the Boy” left only after the FBI called Kaplan’s lawyers, Pinson said. When those contacts with Pinson were made, Kaplan allegedly was in Las Vegas, and, at least once, in a car only a block away.

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