- By ANDREW DALTON, Associated Press Writer
Wednesday, September 13, 2006

(09-13) 22:54 PDT Los Angeles (AP) --

The private investigator who was the inspiration for Kinky Friedman's mystery novels appeared in a federal court Wednesday on charges of trying to intimidate a government informant by impersonating an FBI agent. In an initial court appearance, Steven Rombom, whose fictional alter-ego Rambam appears in Friedman novels such as "The Love Song of J. Edgar Hoover," was released on $25,000 bond by Magistrate Patrick J. Walsh and scheduled to be arraigned Oct. 23. Rombom was charged with "impersonating a federal officer" in an attempt to intimidate the family of a confidential government informant in Rosemead on April 21, according to court documents. Rombom was working for Albert Santoro, a former assistant district attorney accused of money laundering in New York. Rombom "flashed what appeared to be an official govrnment identification," to the family, and later introduced himself as an FBI agent, according to an affidavit filed by the FBI.

The affidavit also said Rombom told the informant's family that he feared for their safety, and said that the informant was a dangerous person. Rombom's attorney Jeff Rutherford said his client planned to dispute the charges. "Steven Rombom is absolutely not guilty," Rutherford said. "He will fight this charge at every stage and intends to be exonerated." Friedman told The Associated Press that Rombom has had difficulty with the FBI in the past. "He and the FBI have not been on good terms for many years. They play a cat-and-mouse game," said Friedman, who first found fame as a country singer and is now an independent Texas gubernatorial candidate. "He will win this case. He's a good guy who works very unconventionally, sometimes on both sides of the law." Friedman also uses the 47-year-old Rombom, who also at times goes by the name Rambam in real life, as a technical advisor for his novels.

Rombom was charged initially in New York, where he lives, with crimes based on the same incident. He was arrested there July 24 at a hotel as he was about to give a lecture at a computer hacking conference. The FBI handcuffed him and led him away in front of a stunned audience.