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— A 36-year-old "business executive" who allegedly ran a nationwide call-girl ring out of his two-bedroom La Jolla apartment has pleaded guilty to federal wire-fraud charges in Kansas City, ending a case that for a time threatened to spill some unsavory secrets of San Diego's rich and famous. It was back in December 1996 when cops in Lenexa, Kansas, just across the state line from K.C., began investigating the suspicious operation of Leonard Pitock. A New Jersey native and one-time Rutgers law school student, Pitock had relocated to San Diego with his father Norman in the late 1980s. Records showed that Norman for a time ran a stuffed-toy wholesale business called Tilly Collectibles on Miramar Road, which his son sometimes used as a mailing address. Leonard also told his La Jolla landlady he worked there. But Kansas cops said Pitock had another occupation. "If you picked up the phone in any one of several major cities in the nation, and you called the telephone number for an escort service, it was picked up in San Diego," Sergeant Pat Hinkle of the Lenexa Police Department said in 1997, just after he busted Pitock on pimping charges. "They would take the request for the person, and then the girls would be contacted by San Diego and dispatched, if you will, to the john. San Diego appears clearly to be the hub." Depending on the city, the alleged operator used a different name. In Kansas City, it was Alluring Models and An Absolute Angel. In Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, it was An Absolute Dream. In San Diego, it was All American Escort and All American Hospitality. All of the businesses were registered at two La Jolla addresses. Cops in Kansas City and San Diego, as well as the FBI, all said that the Pitock case was huge and that others were involved. "San Diego had an open investigation, an ongoing investigation when we first called them," Hinkle said. "Without San Diego this case would be nowhere. In conjunction with our arrest warrants, they got a lot of information. We just worked on it longer, we had the manpower to devote to it longer, and so we got a case to the prosecutor sooner. It's as simple as that. I understand they're still trying to get charges filed there." No charges were ever filed in San Diego, though local vice cops are said to have a huge stash of evidence, including lists of customer names. Meanwhile, Pitock went underground. "He left kind of in a hurry," his landlady said. "He was there for about three years. No complaints that I'm aware of. He left a letter, dated May 5 of 1997, saying, 'My company has undergone major changes and I was transferred to Atlanta.' He drove a green Camaro, and he was slight, not very tall. He dressed nicely, and he was kind of bouncy, and he just seemed like a perfect tenant." As it turned out, the prostitution case in state court against Pitock was dismissed on technical grounds. Pitock was later recharged in another county and finally indicted on the federal fraud charges, alleging he had obtained a merchants' credit card account at a San Diego bank by claiming he was in the catering business. Two weeks ago, a federal judge sentenced him to a year and three months in prison.

Garbage In, Garbage Out

How tough is it to find high-tech employees these days? Just ask the San Diego Data Processing Corporation, owned and controlled by the San Diego City Council. Last year, reports the Riverside Press-Enterprise, the data-processing outfit hired Jim Hlawek, who had just been forced out of his job as chief administrative officer of San Bernardino County. Hlawek was under investigation by the FBI for taking bribes. Phil Thalheimer, a spokesman for the San Diego agency, told the Press-Enterprise that nothing showed up on Hlawek's background check, and his references didn't mention anything bad. According to the paper, Hlawek, who was made SDDPC's "human resources" manager, was placed on paid "administrative leave" only in November, when he told his bosses about the FBI probe. He was indicted soon after. Last week Hlawek pleaded guilty to bribery and conspiracy and faces five years in the slammer and a $250,000 fine. Court records showed he had cut a secret deal with prosecutors back in October 1998.

Contributor: Matt Potter

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