An Arlington woman has filed suit against a Georgetown restaurateur who holds White House press credentials as an Argentine television journalist, alleging that he bilked her out of about $180,000 as part of a fraudulent scheme to establish a documentary-film company.
In papers filed in Arlington Circuit Court in late February, Carole M. O'Connor asks that Angelo Carrasco, owner of the Las Pampas restaurant, be ordered to return the money and that his assets, including his apartment unit in the Representative condominium at 1101 S. Arlington Ridge Rd., Arlington, be attached.
Carrasco's attorney, Ronald M. Cohen, filed papers stating that the legal basis for O'Connor's suit is insufficient and asking that the suit be thrown out. He declined comment pending a hearing today on O'Connor's request to attach Carrasco's assets. Carrasco could not be reached for comment and O'Connor and her attorney, Stephen D. Annand, declined to comment.
According to court papers, Arlington police executed a search warrant at Carrasco's apartment last week. The warrant was issued as part of a criminal investigation into the allegations O'Connor made in her civil suit. According to an affidavit filed by county police Detective William Cowell in support of the search warrant, it was issued on the basis of information supplied by Annand, O'Connor's attorney, including the pleadings that O'Connor filed in the civil suit.
The search warrant states that police were looking for records and documents about financial transactions between Carrasco and O'Connor and similar records regarding American Broadcasting Productions, which O'Connor contends in court papers was a company Carrasco said he intended to form to produce documentaries about Latin America.
The search warrant states that video equipment and "miscellaneous ledgers" were among the items found in the search, but there was no indication what specific documents were found.
Lt. James R. Jenkins, head of the police department's major crimes division, said the investigation is continuing and that "we may determine it is a civil matter rather than a criminal matter."
In an affidavit filed in her civil suit, O'Connor alleges that Carrasco asked her for money to underwrite the production project, purchase video equipment, and, in one case, to put up $20,000 for the two of them to accompany the White House press corps on a trip with President Reagan to South America last year.
O'Connor, a 60-year-old widow, alleges in court papers that Carrasco represented himself to be a producer-director for the Argentine Television Network. A White House spokesman said Carrasco has press credentials as a representative of "Channel 12" in Argentina.
In her affidavit, O'Connor said she met Carrasco and "became infatuated with his charming demeanor" during a WRC radio-sponsored tour to Egypt and Israel in January 1982 and "learned we had a common interest in journalism and foreign affairs." Carrasco first mentioned "his great dream of putting together a television documentary . . . of interviews with 10 heads of state" during the WRC tour, which featured journalists Tom Braden and Pat Buchanan meeting with newsmakers, O'Connor alleged.
After the trip, Carrasco met O'Connor's terminally ill husband, C. Fred O'Connor, who was a cofounder and senior official with the Charles E. Smith Co., the major developer of Crystal City and other projects in Arlington, the affidavit continued.
After her husband died last June, O'Connor contended in her affidavit, she was under "severe emotional stress and extremely vulnerable to Carrasco's manipulations" and subsequently gave Carrasco about $180,000, although she found "very little tangible evidence that anything was being done on the project."