Appendix One: MIPORN

Part: 
Four
Chapter: 
4

The most significant federal obscenity investigation and prosecution to date arose in the Southern District of Florida. The case, initiated by local police officers, was eventually the focus of a nationwide investigation conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in cooperation with the United States Department of Justice Organized Crime Strike Force. Special Attorney Marcella Cohen, at the request of this Commission, summarized the investigation and some of its results to date as follows:

The undercover FBI investigation was referred to as MIPORN, an acronym, which stood for Miami Pornography. MIPORN was a two and a half year updercover investigation into organized crime influence in the pornography industry. This investigation resulted in many indictments for interstate transportation of obscene materials and revealed other criminal activities resulting in indictments and forfeitures including but not limited to racketeering, possession and transfer of machine guns and silencers, child pornography, interstate transportation of stolen property and copyright violations. Bruce Ellavsky and Patrick Livingston[1243] were two agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation who were assigned to the Miami Office of the FBI in September and October 1977. They were to investigate large scale producers and distributors of pornography throughout the United States. In October 1977 an undercover company was established in South Florida which was to be the basis of the operation. The name Golde Coaste Specialties, Inc., was chosen as the name of the company and it was incorporated in the State of Florida. There were a number of companies with variations of the name Gold Coast so it was necessary to put an "e" on the end of gold and "e" on the end of coast in order to incorporate in Florida. Special Agent Bruce Ellavsky used the undercover name Bruce Wakerly and Patrick Livingston used the name Pat Salamone. Additionally, an office warehouse was rented where meetings were conducted. The "front" business of the warehouse was a blue jeans store while the back of warehouse was where the pornography, business was located. At a later time, G&C Sales, Ltd., was established in the Grand Cayman Islands to lend credibility to the operation.

When the agents spoke to individuals who were involved in the distribution of pornography throughout the industry, the agents would inform them that they had a mail order operation involved in the distribution of "hard" or hard core pornographic eight millimeter films, magazines, and video tape cassettes. In reality there was of course no such mail order business.

For the purpose of the undercover operation the agents altered the manner in which they dressed. They dressed casually and wore gold necklaces, diamond rings, gold bracelets and expensive watches.

During the course of the undercover investigation the agents travelled throughout the country and met with pornographers in virtually every major city including New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Minneapolis and providence. The agents found that major producers and distributors of eight millimeter films, magazines and video tape cassettes would meet every six months in various cities throughout the United States. The meetings were usually not conventions with any planned agendas. They would frequently take place in a major hotel within the city, and conversations would take place in the lobby areas of the hotel, or in lounges or restaurants located off the lobbies. The agents on occasion would plan or attend a meeting which would take place in the room of whichever distributor or producer of pornography they wanted to meet with, see their products or f-urther discuss potential orders. At other times, booths would be set up at a consumer electronics show. The following are some of the individuals and, companies investigated during the course of the two and a half year undercover MIPORN investigation:

Notes

  1. On January 21, 1982, it was disclosed that Agent Livingston had been arrested for shoplifting in a department store outside Louisville, Kentucky. After being notified of Livingston's arrest, two MIPORN defendants, Robert DiBernardo and Theodore Rothstein, filed motions asking the United States District Court in Miami to vacate their convictions and dismiss the indictments against them. They alleged the Grand Jury had received tainted evidence in the form of testimony from Livingston, whose credibility was now seriously in doubt. The District Court conducted a full hearing on the matter and heard testimony form psychiatrists who believed Livingston had a propensity to lie. Several of Livingston's FBI colleagues also testified regarding their doubts about his mental and emotional well being. DiBernardo and Rothstein also alleged that the prosecution had presented additional prejudicial evidence before the Grand Jury, including information about the defendant's alleged connections with organized crime and related criminal offenses. The District Court ruled that the Grand Jury had received tainted evidence from Agent Livingston who, it concluded, did have a propensity to lie. Based on that tainted evidence and the other matters presented to the Grand Jury which the court found to have been prejudicial, the Court vacated the convictions and dismissed the indictments. This decision is reported in United States v. DiBernardo, 552 F.Supp. 1315(S.D.Fla. 1982). The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit subsequently reversed the District Court's ruling in United States v. DiBernardo, 775 F.2d 470(11th Cir. 1985). The Appeals Court ruled that neither the questions regarding Agent Livingston's credibility nor the alleged prejudicial evidence presented to the Grand Jury were sufficient grounds for the District Court to invoke the drastic measure of dismissing the indictments. The Appeals Court held that deliberate abuse of the Grand Jury process, such as perjury or governmental misconduct, must be present to justify the District Court's dismissal of an indictment. Neither was established in this case. The Court further reasoned that permitting the District Court to dismiss indictments based on allegations of this nature would invite similar challenges by defendants to every indictment.

    The shoplifting charge against Agent Livingston was ultimate dismissed by the local prosecutor in Kentucky after Livingston signed a release agreeing not to file suit based on false arrest.

    To the extent that any of Ms. Cohen's statement was based on evidence provided by Agent Livingston, it has been fully corroborated by other evidence including tape recordings, third party statements, surveillance and court records. Most of the convictions discussed in this portion of the report occurred after the 1982 District Court ruling dismissing the indictments in United States v. DiBernardo.