Bill Gross Reaches Back to Vietnam to Describe Neighbor Encounter
Bill Barney, chief executive officer of Global Cloud Xchange (GCX), poses for a photograph following a Bloomberg Television interview at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) CEO Summit in Danang, Vietnam. (Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg)

Bill Gross Reaches Back to Vietnam to Describe Neighbor Encounter

Bill Gross flashed back to his experience serving in the Vietnam War in describing how he felt finding his “creepy” neighbor trying to record him with a camera one night in August.

“It was very fearful,” Gross said Tuesday in Orange County Superior Court in his last day of testimony in a civil harassment dispute with Laguna Beach, California, neighbor Mark Towfiq. “I’ve been in Vietnam and I’ve faced bullets from the Viet Cong. I’m not saying this incident was anything like that.”

But Gross, 76, returned to the Vietnam comparison in saying the encounter was among the most jarring in his recent life of privilege. The billionaire Pimco co-founder served in the Navy during the war.

“My life had been a relatively calm life without danger or fear,” he said. “Again, it’s not like Vietnam, but in the last five or 10 years of living, I’d never experienced anything like this where this man was taping me and I didn’t know what to do.”

Orange County Superior Court Judge Kimberly Knill will have to weigh the “five minutes of fear” described by Gross against the constant playing of loud and annoying music --including the Gilligan’s Island theme song -- claimed by tech entrepreneur Towfiq and his wife, Carol Nakahara, as testimony wraps up this week in their lawsuits. Towfiq is asking for the music to stop, while Gross alleges his neighbor is a “peeping Mark” who’s stalked him and girlfriend Amy Schwartz by filming them with his cameras.

Knill scheduled closing arguments for Wednesday and didn’t indicate when she may rule on the dueling requests for restraining orders.

Nakahara testified on Tuesday that she began getting ready for bed without turning on the lights in her master bedroom because doing so would provoke her neighbors into once again blaring the tale of the stranded sitcom castaways.

‘Just Wanted to Go to Bed’

“I’d turn on the light and the music would go on,” she said. “It’d freak me out. I would not want to deal with it so I’d go into the master suite and I’d literally brush my teeth in the dark. I didn’t want to call the police, I just wanted to go to bed.”

Nakahara said the music began in late July, just after her husband complained to Laguna Beach officials about a net that Gross installed over his million-dollar glass sculpture.

“At the beginning of August was brutal,” she said. “It was constant. When they were there they’d play loud music during the day and at night we’d hear television theme songs. The music was so loud I could not be in the master bedroom or bathroom. I’d close the door and I’d be in the kitchen on the other side of the property and I could still hear it. It was loud and it was repetitive.”

Meanwhile, Gross said he was trying to measure the sound coming from his outdoor speakers using a decibel meter when he had his terrifying encounter with Towfiq.

Towfiq testified earlier that he began recording Gross after he saw the billionaire that night standing near the wall separating their property and attempting to put his hand over his wall with some kind of device. Gross also noticed some kind of device in Towfiq’s hands.

“I knew it was a camera presumably, it was pointed right at me,” Gross said. “That started five minutes of fear. Let’s not exaggerate. It was not terror. The man wasn’t holding a knife, and I knew it wasn’t a gun, but to me it was very fearful.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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