Federal agents arrest Ramona CPA for alleged murder-for-hire plot
A tax preparer from Ramona facing federal charges for allegedly bilking the U.S. government out of more than $11 million through fraudulent returns and identity theft was arrested Friday on suspicion of trying to hire a hitman to kill two people planning to testify against him, authorities said.
Federal agents took certified public accountant Steven Martinez, 51, into custody without incident at his workplace on Oberlin Drive in Sorrento Valley about 1:30 p.m., according to the FBI.
According to a complaint filed in U.S. District Court, Martinez offered an acquaintance $100,000 in cash to kill the prosecution witnesses, provided him with photos of the targeted people along with personal information about them and suggested using a silencer-equipped gun for the slayings.
On Wednesday, the man Martinez allegedly contacted about the murder-for-hire plan notified the FBI. Over the following two days, federal investigators collected evidence that resulted in Martinez’s arrest and the filing of witness-tampering charges against him, officials said.
The suspect will be held in the Metropolitan Correctional Center in downtown San Diego pending an initial appearance before a federal judge on Monday.
The financial-crimes accusations that allegedly prompted the murder plot surfaced last April, when a grand jury charged Martinez with filing false tax returns, money laundering, identity theft, mail fraud and other criminal counts, according to federal court records.
The defendant, a one-time IRS agent, allegedly carried out the scheme by presenting his tax-preparation clients with returns showing “substantial” amounts owed to the government, then diverting their payments to his own bank accounts and submitting false returns claiming much lower liabilities.
According to the complaint, Martinez used the millions of dollars he fraudulently obtained through the scam “to his own personal use and benefit” while failing to report the funds on his own tax returns.
—City News Service
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