Britney Spears doesn't really have a real "team" these days, save for friends who have evolved into her managers, bodyguards and publicists. Lately, one figure in particular has been a fixture for much of the singer's daily life: Sam Lutfi. He's been seen with her en route to aborted court appearances, during her frequent late-night dance practices and shopping sprees, and most recently, on Monday night and Tuesday (January 29), when she was reunited with her mother as intervention talk was in the air. So who is Sam Lutfi?
According to Barbara Walters, he is "the manager and very good friend of Britney Spears," as she said on "The View" on Monday. The host was talking about a phone conversation she had with Lutfi regarding the singer seeking mental-health care. "He seemed to be very knowledgeable, and he certainly was very nice," Walters said.
But according to three requests for restraining orders against him that have been obtained by MTV News — and are unrelated to Spears — Lutfi also has a dark side, one that caused Spears' parents to express grave concern to Blender about his relationship to their daughter. Before Lutfi hooked up with Spears, he was a fixture in the life of Danny Haines, a former friend who claimed that their association turned sour when Lutfi allegedly sent nude pictures of him to his family, friends and employer, and tried to convince Haines to kill himself. "Seriously, sleeping pills, lots of them," Lutfi allegedly wrote to him, Haines told Blender magazine.
After claiming extortion, emotional blackmail and humiliation, Haines got a restraining order against Lutfi in April, claiming he had sent him harassing and threatening e-mails and text messages. In his petition to the court, Haines claimed Lutfi was a "dangerous person" who wouldn't leave Haines' home until the police would ask Lutfi to. Haines also claimed Lutfi sent him messages reading, "I hope you end up behind bars or 6 feet under soon," and that he was praying for misfortune to befall Haines' family. Haines asked that his mother and sister be included in the protective order due to those and other threats, and an Orange County, California, judge granted a three-year restraining order.
That might explain Spears' oft-photographed late-night romps around town — visits to dance studios, gas stations and pharmacies, including the Longs Drugs store she visited with her mother Monday night as talk of an intervention was in the air. Though Dr. Phil McGraw — who drew criticism for going public about his visit to the singer when she was hospitalized earlier this month — had previously said Spears was "in dire need of both medical and psychological intervention," he cleared the air about his involvement with her on "Good Morning America" and "Today" Wednesday morning (January 30).
"I regret making the statement," he admitted. "It didn't help. It didn't work." Addressing speculation that he had planned an intervention with the Spears family, he told Diane Sawyer, "Not true.
One other complaint was filed, but not granted, by business acquaintance Jumana Issa in 2005. She claimed that when she was trying to close an escrow account for Lutfi, he started harassing her with obscene e-mails, faxes and voice mails, which included his hanging up on her "around 15 to 30" times a day. In one such fax, which she included in her petition, Lutfi allegedly wrote, "Peel yourself away from all the candy, your dumb attitude and [fat] belly and answer my e-mails. ... Come on, big lady. ... Put down the donuts and call me."
"The ordeal with Mr. Lutfi has been an overwhelming nightmare," Issa wrote in her petition. "For over two months now, I have suffered substantial emotional stress and distress. ... His threats have violated my business operation." Issa's petition was dismissed because of her failure to appear in court for a preliminary hearing.
Despite the appearance that Lutfi and Spears' parents, Jamie and Lynne, are on the same team now, allied to get the singer help, trouble has been brewing ever since her parents recently tried to reunite with their estranged daughter, who was videotaped crying outside her home. Spears' father was taped having difficulty gaining entrance to his daughter's residence Monday night, with paparazzi at the house reporting that Lutfi tried to deny entrance to not only Jamie but also Britney's on-again, off-again boyfriend, Adnan Ghalib. Ken Dungey, who says he is a friend of Lutfi, told MTV News that Lutfi brags about the level of control he has over Spears, that he claims "he controls 99 percent of her life."
On Tuesday, Lutfi accompanied Spears and her mother to a Mercedes dealership, which caused speculation that he was forcing the singer to buy a new car, when those closest to her wanted her to attend to other matters.
To explain the Monday night events, Lutfi called TMZ on Tuesday, claiming that Spears' parents "barged in." "They have an agenda," he told TMZ. "Their agenda is jealousy because they don't fit in. I do. They see her three times a year."
Lutfi then asked Spears, who was near the phone, "Did I force you to buy a car?" She responded, "No." When he asked, "Do I ever bug you?," she replied, "We argue."