“Playing with Fire,” a great unsolved mystery

John J. Nazarian
February 22, 2011

Several months ago I was made aware of a television story that was being produced for 48 HOURS on CBS. A story that involved a few people that I knew. The piece finally made it to the air on February 19 and was titled “48 Hours Mystery: Playing with Fire.” How often do I know the players in major news stories happening around the world? Way more often than I would like to admit.

“Playing with Fire” was produced by Greg Fisher and two others, Chris and Ira. Greg Fisher and I have had lunch and breakfast and lunch again, I believe, in reference to this story as well as another project. This story was very interesting to me, to see the produced version of the tale that millions watched while sitting in their homes. And my knowing what I knew of some of those involved. Here was one of my very good friends, Detective William Cox, a very good acquaintance that I have a great deal of respect for, Andrew Blankstein of the Los Angeles Times, and of course Michele Braun, formerly of “Nicis Girls.” I met Ms. Braun during the good ol’ days and met with her during what was perhaps one of the worst times in her life.

Note: Michele was charged in 2009 by the feds with Money Laundering and Prostitution. What made this all the more interesting was that she paid taxes all those years and still got bagged. It makes one wonder how she came to the attention of the government. An even better question: has the cloud totally moved on? Or are there still some thunderstorms brewing? Sometimes, when you escape a nuclear warhead with your hair intact, you may want to go and play dead for several years. Michele looked great and you could tell she was excited to be telling “her” story. Michele always has a purpose in everything she does. And if a book ever comes out, I am buying a copy. Seeing Ms. Braun blabbing away, I was reminded of the story of the bull sleeping and leaving it alone, let it sleep.

Back to the best parts of the show, can you imagine how bad Sandy Bentley must have felt for this story to air for the entire world to see and hear? Hell, she makes Paris Hilton look like a candidate for sainthood. One thought I had watching Sandy Bentley drive away in her Chevrolet in what looked like a part of the San Fernando Valley, the worm has turned, well at least a little. Hell even her boyfriend Michael Tardio was found shot to death and burning in a Mercedes, how Hollywood is that? Sandy Bentleys unwillingness to cooperate with the cops was also interesting and very Hollywood, “protect your own ass no matter who is smoldering in the ruins.” When you run around with the rich and famous you learn that lesson real quick, you are disposable. In the case of Michael and Chris that is certainly an extreme. This story had lots of real bad apples involved from start to finish.

Re: Ms. Linda Kim, did anyone else out there feel funny about watching and listening to this one? “International arms dealer” who almost toppled the entire South Korean government. And she did one of the best “dumb and dumber” routines I have ever seen in years. Ms. Kim mentions very special jewelry, but she states she sent Tardio on his way. However, she takes another meeting with Tardio, hours before his murder…bad energy in Kims words. Just watch that segment with Ms. Kim and listen closely! Enough about her, I am not buying her or her story

Having worked and looked into cases all over the world and most recently a murder case in Paris, France there is one person I would not want to piss off: Bill Cox, LAPD Homicide Detective Ret. To make sure I remained in his good graces till the end of time, Billy had his retirement dinner and party at my home in Toluca Lake. It was one of the best parties I have ever attended, only the very special were invited. And for me and my family it was an honor to have it at our home. If ever I had to call for help my list is small, Bill, Bobby and Mark, all honorable men.

If Detective Bill Cox had not retired, this case would have been solved and from what I am hearing that dam worm is turning again. And not just for the individual(s) who shot and killed Michael Tardio and Christopher Monson. Sometimes it is a very good idea folks to go away quietly until everyones memories get clear or certain people retire! LMAO

One person involved in all this lunacy that I sorta liked was Mark Yagalla, he came across as a guy just trying to catch up on his f@#king around. Only problem was that he was buying hookers with other people’s money. Or as Ms. Braun puts it, I was being paid for was an introduction, I am not sure if that is a term or a defense in either Federal Court of State Courts for that matter…Ms. Braun was not the first and most certainly won’t be the last to try to sell that belief to prosecutors.

Yagalla paid $50,000 a night to bang a pretty woman…one of those $12 movies and dim lighting in a nice hotel could almost give you the same feeling…well in the end, anyways. 50 grand! Another great quote was when Ms. Braun was asked about the “love” factor between Mark Yagalla and Sandy “I smell something burning” Bentley. Mark was in love with his high-paid companion and Sandy Bentley was in love with his money…ya think? Yagalla is not the worst player in this whole mystery…Garden of Eden. Sandy was hot after Michael Tardio, how did that feel? To be chasing and not the chased. However, if Michael had never met Sandy Bentley he would more likely be alive today as would his best friend, Christopher Monson

This whole scenario was made for Tardio and his friend to end up dead, it was dam near a perfect set up. They were in a league that they had no idea what was coming. Over the years we have negotiated the sale of some very high end merchandise and where do we go? Not into the Hollywood Hills at night, rather we go to bank conference rooms and even police or sheriffs lobbies. Good lighting and even better camera shots in the event of any shots at all.

If ever you are going to try and satisfy someone like Sandy Bentley, buy an alligator farm, there you will at least have a shot at satisfying a real beast. Mark Yagalla could not do it with his millions, and I have to wonder what did Michael Tardio have to please her? Hmmm was it a 12 inch personality, a great set of abs, what? Was it love this time? I doubt it, look at the player and you will understand how you can get played. One thing I am sure Michael Tradio never had was an American Express Card Statement for $710,000.00 or a receipt from Chopard for a watch, a $500,000 watch. All Mr. Yagalla wanted was to keep Sandy Bentley happy…Mark…next time, ALLIGATOR farming…it is safer.

One thing that caught my attention was that there were no “officials” on this show or for that matter on the record. Folks, it is that silence that I am telling you is not good for a few people involved in this story. Time is always on the side of the good guys.

I know better than most how frustrating this has to be to sit and wait for the system to work. The killing of people in Los Angeles, it would seem, is a lot easier than you would think. We are watching the system at work in the case of Mike Yepremyan who was murdered with five witnesses and the cops cannot not seem to put a lid on it, in the case of Lauren Ann Freeman and the guy who hit her with his Bentley and left her to die on Sunset Blvd…Bentleys can be deadly.

Congratulations to Bill Cox, Andrew Blankstein and Greg Fisher for getting this murder case to the attention of the public. Please give Detective Cox the one little lead if you have it: Los Angeles Police Department 1-877-527-3247

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