FBI Joins in "Sensitive" Travolta Extortion Case

Voice analysts brought in as police focus on phone conversations between family lawyers and the two suspects

By Gina Serpe, Ken Baker Jan 27, 2009 1:08 AMTags
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FBI specialists are lending a hand—or, more accurately, an ear—into the alleged extortion plot of John Travolta and Kelly Preston, with special voice-analysis experts assisting Bahamas police with the case, E! News has exclusively learned.

The analysts were needed, Bahamian law enforcement sources say, because the police inquiry is now centering on "sensitive" phone conversations that allegedly took place between Sen. Pleasant Bridgewater, who quit her parliament post after being charged with abetment and conspiracy to extort over the weekend, and lawyers for Travolta.

The conversations revolved around documents obtained by ambulance driver Tarino Lightbourne, the paramedic who claimed he was present when 16-year-old Jett Travolta died on Jan. 2. Senior Assistant Commissioner of Police Marvin Dame said the documents are currently in police possession.

According to sources, Lightbourne, who pleaded not guilty today to attempted extortion and conspiracy, believed that the mystery documents would have caused embarrassment to the Travoltas and possibly left them open to criticism and questioning over how they addressed the seizure that resulted in Jett's death.

Bridgewater became involved in talks with the Travoltas' local attorney, Bahamian Sen. Allyson Maynard-Gibson, after being retained as Lightbourne's lawyer.

Dame said the investigation has reached a "critical stage," but that inquiries are continuing.

He also denied reports that the extortion plot was in any way connected to rumored photographs of Jett.

"There are certainly some reports out there speaking to some photos," he said. "That is incorrect, we are talking specifically about a document that the alleged accused purported to have in his possession and was using that document to extort a substantial sum of moneys from the victim, Mr. Travolta.

"This matter is still under investigation so I don't intend to get into specifics of the case."

The third person hauled in for police questioning last week, Bahamian MP and close Travolta family friend Obie Wilchcombe, does not appear to be a suspect, sources told E! News.

"He was the one who told Pleasant to tell her client to 'go to hell,' " said an insider familiar with the investigation. "He was never a part of any discussions pertaining to extortion. There could be no discussion of Wilchcombe or any tape or anything like that."

Bridgewater, who also happens to be facing hefty legal bills after unsuccessfully challenging general election results last month, faces up to eight years in prison if convicted.

Her arraignment is expected to take place on Wednesday.

Lightbourne, meanwhile, remains in custody after prosecutors objected to his bail.

The Travoltas have not commented on the case beyond a statement from their lawyers last week lamenting "a few individuals who attempt to make false claims in hopes of making millions of dollars."

(Originally published on Jan. 26, 2009 at 1:52 p.m. PT.)