A Playmate, a Ponzi scheme, jewels and murder
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Christopher Monson and Michael Tardio
In 2002, the strongest lead cops had was that telephone number Michael Tardio had left with his girlfriend, Sandy Bentley. It linked to a person who would play a central role in the investigation.
"This person has been interviewed a number of times. He's been surveilled a number of times. There's been a lot of pressure put on this person of interest," says Det. Bill Cox.
"48 Hours" has learned he's talking about Michael Jacobs, a convicted felon. People from the Garden of Eden nightclub told "48 Hours" Jacobs and Michael Tardio discussed selling the jewels. Police believe Jacobs brought Tardio and "Mr. Big" together for the million-dollar jewelry deal.
"Surely Michael Jacobs knows who the guy is that he set Michael Tardio up with, 'cause he's the middle man," says Det. Cox.
Police say evidence shows that in the hours before the killings, calls were made between the cell phones of Michael Tardio and Jacobs multiple times during the day and into the night.
In fact, Jacob's cell phone showed activity in the area where Tardio and Monson met "Mr. Big," before they headed up into the Hollywood Hills. Jacobs cell phone also shows activity in area where the bodies were found in a burning car.
"There's no doubt in our mind, Michael Jacobs is key to the case," says Cox.
After a two-month search, investigative producer Chris O'Connell finally got Michael Jacobs on the phone from our office in New York.
"Hey Mike, it's Chris O'Connell from '48 Hours.'
You knew Michael Tardio. You knew Christopher Monson. You hung out at the Garden of Eden. You are one of the last people seen talking to them."
By law, we're prohibited from recording Jacob's voice.
"Is it your sense that Michael Jacobs knows much more about this case than what he told you in this conversation?" Van Sant asks O'Connell.
"He knows that this is about jewels, but he won't say anything," he replies.
O'Connell flies to L.A. He doesn't have an address for Jacobs, just a phone number. When they finally connect, Jacobs gets cold feet.
"I don't think you want to meet, I think you want to find out what I know," O'Connell tells Jacobs over the phone.
Jacobs confirmed that Sandy Bentley called him that night looking for Tardio,
but refused an on camera interview. He also refused to answer any questions about the jewelry deal, except to say he had nothing to do with the murders and that he "sleeps well at night."
"He's the one who can actually, I feel, blow this case open," Cox says. "But he just doesn't wanna be cooperative."
At the time of the murders, Jacobs was questioned extensively by police, but they never had evidence to charge him. For now, this investigation has hit a wall.
It's been more than nine years since the murders. The woman at the center of it all, who once wore those millions in jewels - Playboy cover girl Sandy Bentley - is a little less glamorous today. She is married and a mother.
Mark Yagalla, her former sugar daddy, who bought her those baubles, is broke and still owes millions to the people he scammed.
"I went from living every man's fantasy to having nothing," Yagalla tells Van Sant.
"[And] no women... In my case, people lost money [and] two people, now, have lost their lives."
The other mystery is where did all those jewels go?
"They may cut it up - cut up the jewels, get rid of them," Cox says. "It's long gone. You can't even trace it."
"I'm very lucky I didn't buy that jewelry, I didn't get involved in that deal," Linda Kim says. "If I buy that one, what's gonna happen? They gonna kill me?"
We end this story the same way it began: on the streets and in the hills of Hollywood - a crime unsolved and two promising young men dead.
Asked if the case if solvable, Det. Cox says, "The case is definitely solvable."
Authorities believe, that with your help, they can solve this mystery and find the killer or killers of Michael Tardio and Christopher Monson.
"So as we sit here talking today, there's a killer out there - a killer in your town who's a free man," Van Sant remarks to Cox.
"Yeah," he replies. "I would love more than anything to just have one little lead. It's amazing what we can do with one little lead."
The Los Angeles City Council has renewed a $75,000 reward for information leading to a conviction in this case.
Anyone with information about this crime is urged to contact the Los Angeles Police Department.
Call: 1-877-LAPD-24-7 | 1-877-527-3247
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