L.A. Superior Court clerks accepted bribes for searches

The Associated Press
Saturday November 11, 2000

LOS ANGELES — Superior Court clerks accepted bribes of 50 cents to $1 per name to illegally conduct criminal record searches for a detective agency that performed background checks for businesses hiring new employees. 

The regular court fee to conduct a criminal record search is $5 per name. Businesses pay $4 to $21 per background check depending on how many names are given. 

Fifteen court clerks performed the illegal searches for the Malibu-based Pro Scan investigative agency, said court spokeswoman Jerrianne Hayslett. 

Disciplinary action and criminal charges were filed against eight clerks. Some of the clerks were fired, Hayslett said, offering no specifics. 

“The court is working aggressively to search out illegal activity and assist the District Attorney’s Office with its investigation,” said court executive officer John A. Clarke. Measures have been put into place to stop such activity, he said. 

Former Santa Monica Superior Court clerk Selena Douglas, 33, was arrested Thursday and pleaded innocent to one count of receiving a bribe, one count of unauthorized computer access, and one count of embezzlement of public funds. 

Her bail was not immediately determined. 

Deputy District Attorney Nicholas Koumjian alleged that Douglas, who was a clerk until October 1999, cost the court system more than $150,000 in losses. 

Pro Scan owners Alicia Lynn Martinez, 28, and Michael James Stephenson, 36, also were arrested Thursday and charged with four counts of bribing a public employee and one count of grand theft of more than $150,000. 

A call to Pro Scan in Malibu played a recording saying the office was closed. 

The married couple are scheduled to be arraigned Monday. They were being held without bail in separate facilities by the county Sheriff’s Department.