By Louis Casiano Jr. / Staff Writer
March 17, 2017

SANTA ANA – A private detective who admitted he tried to set up a Costa Mesa councilman for a false DUI and tailed the city’s former mayor using a tracking device was sentenced by an Orange County Superior Court judge Friday to one year in jail.

Judge W. Michael Hayes opted against a sentence of probation for Christopher Joseph Lanzillo, 47, of Lake Arrowhead, who was at the center of an effort funded by the Costa Mesa Police Association to dig up dirt on Councilman Jim Righeimer and former mayor Steve Mensinger in 2012 during tense contract negotiations with the police union.

Lanzillo previously pleaded guilty in September to three felony counts of conspiracy and one felony false imprisonment charge for surveillance.

“I feel here that this was a crime of the head, not the heart,” Hayes said before the sentencing. “I do know he was at a minimum a foot soldier in a firm that was using what I call hardball… and illegal tactics during contract negotiations, and we just can’t have that in Orange County.”

Lanzillo’s attorney, Edward Robinson, asked that his client, a former Riverside police officer, be sentenced to six months, citing his military and police service.

Prosecutor Chris Duff said Lanzillo’s actions broke the public trust police officers promise to uphold and asked that he be given a sentence of one year.

“He used his training, his skills that he learned as a police officer to go after these people,” Duff said. “This is dirty politics coming to our county.”

Lanzillo and Scott Impola, also a former Riverside police officer, were hired by the now-defunt Upland-based law firm Lackie, Dammeier, McGill & Ethir to conduct “candidate research” on Righeimer, Mensinger, former Councilman Gary Monahan and candidate Colin McCarthy.

The firm, which represented over 130 police unions throughout California, has been accused by numerous cities of trying to bully them into backing the unions and granting pay raises.

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