Private eyes detail inner workings of Enquirer "blackmail" machine

It was a familiar moment to Paul Barresi, a private investigator who spent years working on jobs for AMI and other tabloids. “The National Enquirer had some people who would go to a celebrity and say, ‘unless you give in to a one-on-one interview that would amount to a fluff piece with us, we’re going to report XYZ,” he said. “The celebrity would then acquiesce to their demand.”

“The nice way of calling it was quid pro quo, but really it was blackmail,” Barresi said. “I know that the same methodology is practiced today,” he added. “Obviously it’s practiced, because they did it” to Bezos…

Hanks described Barresi as a one-time Enquirer “bagman” who knew how to work “the streets” and had a “very persuasive way of talking to people.” He said if someone was approached by Barresi, he could also hint about dirt the Enquirer had found on them, especially if they weren’t pliable to hush money.

Barresi, according to Hanks, has “audio tapes of various attorneys and…reporters saying, like, ‘I’ll trade you that celebrity for that one,’ or ‘If you let this one slide, I’ll give you this other one.’”