CPA awaits detention hearing in murder-for-hire case

By Neal Putnam

A Ramona tax preparer charged with witness tampering and an alleged murder-for-hire plot faces a detention hearing Thursday, March 15, in federal court where a federal magistrate will consider holding him without bail.

Federal agents arrested Steven Martinez, 50, March 2 on charges he asked a former employee to kill two women who were named as witnesses in his upcoming federal trial on charges of mail fraud, Social Security fraud, identity theft, filing false tax returns, and money laundering.

Martinez appeared March 8 before U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Nita Stormes. His attorney asked to delay the detention hearing until March 15.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Orabona wants Martinez to be held without bail on grounds he is a flight risk and is a danger to the community. Orabona was the prosecutor on Martinez’s original case in which he was indicted by a federal grand jury in April 2011.

Orabona told the magistrate that Martinez had said he believed he would be convicted at trial in the earlier case and would get 10 years in federal prison. The alleged murder-for-hire plot surfaced in late February after Martinez allegedly asked an ex-employee to kill two women who were witnesses against him.

Martinez’s limousine driver, Norman Russell Thellmann, 64, of Santee, was arrested March 3 after FBI agents searched his home and found $42,400 in cash in a cereal box. Thellmann was alleged to be the man who would pay the hit man.

Both Martinez and Thellmann have pleaded not guilty to witness tampering charges and remain in the Metropolitan Correctional Center.

Related posts:

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Posted by Karen Brainard on Mar 13 2012. Filed under News, Ramona, Sheriff/Fire. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

13 Comments for “CPA awaits detention hearing in murder-for-hire case”

  1. Norman Thellmann

    There has been negative and untrue postings about me on the internet now for over one year. It is a story that has been posted by at least the following news media outlets, The Ramona Sentinel, The Associated Press, NBC News, Fox News,, and by the Publisher/Editor-in-Chief, AccountingWEB I want to make it very clear here that though I was dragged through this highly devastating, emotional, and destroying episode, that I was NOT a part of the devious, sick and twisted and extremely selfish acts by the person in Steven Martinez. The story on the internet about his plot to kill some of his former business clients was published and was done so with my good name and honorable reputation in the community of San Diego, CA attached to it and placed-on-the-line.

    The ONLY regret that I have through all of this is that Steven Martinez and I befriended one another about 4 years ago and that I became his limousine driver and a somewhat distant family friend to him and his wife and three young children. I don’t regret having been friends with his wife and children as they were very nice people. I regret having known Steven Martinez because of who and what he ultimately revealed himself to be.

    (Continued on NEXT comment)…

  2. Norman Thellmann

    There are two (2) main people mentioned in the stories on the internet and I am one of them. My name is Norman Thellmann. It is my intent herewith to tell the truth about these stories and that the way in which they have been presented, written, exposed and posted are untrue and that they remain so and that they do NOT depict the truth in its entirety about my involvement at all. It mentions my name and tells of a horrific plot to kill people and it ties me in with it. The stories were blatantly left on the internet for all to see. The stories were never reposted in any way what so ever to indicate the (updated news) or the final outcome of what actually did transpire with regard to ME specifically. I have posted this today (March 15, 2013) to clear matters up and to expose the TRUTH as it really was and is.

    Yes, I was arrested on March 2, 2012 (last year) and I went through legal hell for most of the remainder of last year over this event. I want to set the record straight so that people can clearly see that I had nothing to do with this… at least, not knowingly. I was framed.

    I have lived in San Diego since 1975 and have enjoyed a decent, honorable life and never had any issues with crime before in my entire life. I am 65 years old and I am a respectable, law biding human being.

    (Continued on NEXT comment)…

  3. Norman Thellmann

    In the time that I knew Steven Martinez he seemed to be a very successful CPA here in San Diego and I just assumed all along that he was just that… successful at what he did for a living. Little did I know that all along he was a thief and that he was steeling tax money from his clients that was owed to the IRS. I did not know of this or, the full impact of this until it was 1. Too late. And 2. After he had looped me into his sick and twisted scheme to have some people killed by his former gardener. I did not have ANY knowledge of ANY of all this until after I was arrested.

    These events began in August of 2011. I was at Steven Martinez's house in Ramona one afternoon for a back yard cookout. He approached me at one point and asked me if I would do him a favor (which he had done many times in the past) and they were always simple favors and nothing ever against the law or even close to that. Steven Martinez asked me if I would keep some money that he and his wife "saved" up and to keep it at my house. I did not see anything wrong with that. In fact, I considered it an honor that he would trust me with their money. He told me that the money was for his wife and children and, that "even if HE asked me for it… NOT to give it to him". I am a man of my word and I agreed to do that for them.

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  4. Norman Thellmann

    Then in late February of 2012 he called me one morning and asked me if I would do him a favor again. I said sure buddy what's that? He told me that he wanted me to give 40K of that money to someone who would be calling me soon and that I could meet them in a public place to give them the money. At the time I said OK. We hung up and I gave this some very serious thought for a couple of days. I did not like the sound of it. However Martinez did mention quite often that he needed to cut back on expenses. He sold his interest in a twin engine King air airplane that he had, laid off his long-time house keeper, and his grounds keeper and got rid of his huge motor home. The indication that I was presented with was that he needed money to pay for his attorneys fees for a pending court case that involved his tax business somehow.

    With that said; I just assumed that he wanted me to hand this money over to someone who was going to be taking it to his attorney in order to satisfy that requirement. I am not so naïve now as to assume that anyone would fully understand this. You would have had to of known Steven Martinez in order to see how I perceived him to be. He was the kindest, nicest guy and very, very smooth… (in looking back) at his personality I can see (in hind sight) that he used his talent of being very convincing to schmooze over his tax clients. At the time however I had no clue of what was going on in his business life. He never talked about his tax business other than to speak about the fact that he was arrested the first time for tax fraud just a few months earlier and also that his attorney stated to him that the case was "very defensible". From my point of view… doctors, tax people, lawyers, and other white collar people are always going to court for one thing or another. So why was this guy any different… is what I thought. Par for the course if you will.

    (Continued on NEXT comment)…

  5. Norman Thellmann

    All along, I was a distant friend who he used for his limousine driver from time to time. He had a lovely and very decent person in his wife and three young children who were very sweet. My overall picture of the family was that they were successful and very happy. That is the impression I had. Not in a million years would I have EVER guessed that Steven Martinez would conceive of such a horrendous plot such as that which he came up with to murder people… just so that he could potentially win a legal case and keep his money and his greed. I learned later on after I was arrested that he wanted to kill his clients because they were witnesses on the side of the prosecutor in his case. Everyone who knew him still finds it very difficult to believe that he could have conceived of such an insane idea. Steven Martinez took advantage of my easy going and good personality and the fact that I am and always have been very honest and helpful and then, he betrayed me and my good friendship which I find completely disgraceful and unforgivable. He not only did this to me but also to another mutual friend who put up his house as bail collateral for his release from jail the first time. This was a long time friend of his over many years who he also betrayed. That earlier act by this person in putting up his house for Martinez’s release was also just one more reiteration in my mind that Martinez (at that earlier point in time) was someone worthy of friendship and support and with that prerequisite well established, in my mind when Martinez asked me to hold that money for him… is why I did that for his family.

    (Continued on NEXT comment)…

  6. Norman Thellmann

    That money that I was holding for his wife and children never left my house… as far as I was concerned, even after he asked me to give the 40K portion of it to a stranger… I was not going to live up to that part of the deal because it would break my word and also I did not trust the situation… it just did not seem to be a good, sound idea after-all. I never gave that money to anyone. Steven Martinez set out on his secret plan to kill some people and he and his gardener were apparently the only two people on earth who knew about it. Until, that is… the gardener had the good sense to call the FBI and let them in on Martinez's demented plans. Fortunately for the witnesses it worked and Martinez was arrested. But, then so was I… unknowingly being looked for, for my involvement in simply holding this money for Martinez's wife and children. Had I of known of his plot I would have called Steven Martinez and tried to talk sense to him and tell him that there is no possible way you could ever get away with such a ridiculous and twisted scheme. And further, I would have taken that money back up to his house in Ramona and given it back to him and his wife… had I only known what he was up to. Looking back on it now… if Martinez could so easily plot to take other peoples lives what would prevent him from taking mine!

    I was raised by a good mom and a good dad. I went to church every Sunday when I was a boy because I had decent, God fearing parents and they were good to me. I was not raised to be a bad person and because of that I have lived out the entirety of my life never having been in any trouble with crimes against humanity at all. In the short (4) years I knew Steven Martinez he did not talk very much about his past other than to tell me once that he did not want his mother coming out here from New York to visit the family because she smokes cigarettes and he does not like cigarette smoke. Can't say that I blame him for that but… if it is your 'Mother'? How do you turn your mother away… unless there were unhappy memories that he never talked about?

    (Continued on NEXT comment)…

  7. Norman Thellmann

    I wanted to take my case to trial. My attorney firmly repeated to me every time I brought that up that I would be MUCH better off taking a plea deal. Originally I was charged with Conspiracy to tamper with a witness. Honestly for the first couple of days I was in jail I kept thinking about that charge and could not, for the life of me understand what that meant. My attorney however cleared that up for me later on by explaining the charge. I then told the attorney what I have told you here that I was just as shocked and surprised by what Martinez did than anyone else was. After a while the charge was dropped and a new, (lesser) charge given. That new charge was Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering. I read the charges and I spent weeks studying the law at home and arrived at a conclusion. That was that I did NOT conspire to do ANYTHING! I told my attorney that and as many times as I told him that I wanted a trial… he countered with "You will be much better off by taking the plea deal". In the very end, I bent and took the plea deal which went against every microscopic fiber in my being! A day came when I had to stand in a courtroom and look at a judge and lie to her and tell her that I plead guilty to Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering. I HATED THAT! My attorney used the theory on the side of the prosecutor that if I went to trial, the prosecutor would re-enter the original plea and that if found guilty by a jury that I could face up to (13) years in prison and that I could very well be tried with Martinez in the same trial with the same tainted jury. NO THANKS! I love my freedom way too much to do that. So, yes… he scared the living hell out of me with that! Many weeks later I went before the sentencing judge and he stated: “One year probation”. After listening to about a five minute speech that I read aloud in the courtroom that day the judge I could tell was quite moved by my honesty, forthrightness, and true sincerity after listening to the heart felt and sincere words of my humble speech. My attorney was shocked as he thought I was going to get at least three years probation. I most certainly had made an impression upon the judge… as I was free to go a minute or two later.

    (Continued on NEXT comment)…

  8. Norman Thellmann

    Que sera, sera… life goes on. My excellent and honorable reputation that I worked at for all my adult life to keep clean has been ruined by this insanity which was all brought on by the greedy and self centered Steven Martinez who even apologized to me in jail one day while I was there for a short time. Much too little… much too late are my thoughts on that matter. I am a forgiving man but there are just some things in life that only God can forgive and this is one of them.

    Everything in this posting is the truth so help me God. You may choose to believe me or not but God knows and my many friends know too that I am not someone who would ever knowingly volunteer to be a part of such an evil scheme as what Steven Martinez had designed.

    Thank you,

    Norman Thellmann

    – 0 -

    • Ona

      I was one of Steve's tax clients and have known him since the mid-90's. I didn't make alot of money so I was never a victim of his scam. I would also like to think that when I met Steve, I was in the Navy and Steve being a prior Navy man respected that. I do know how convincing and smooth he could be and was totally blown away by what he did. I believe you when you say you had no idea. I have tried in vain since last November when the sentencing was supposed to happen to find out how long Steve was sentenced for. Do you know? Are his wife and kids doing ok? If you have any information, I would appreciate it. R, Ona

      • Norman Thellmann

        R. Ona. Sorry this took me a while to get back with you. The answer to your questions are as you probably already have heard on the news media is that he was sentenced to approximately 24 years in federal prison. I have not spoken with or seen his wife and children since (approximately) December or January of 2012.
        I am curious too as to how they are doing. His wife is a good person and very humble and sweet. I would find it very hard to believe it if she knew of his ultimate scheme. I heard that their house that they lived in is void of anyone living there now and that the grounds are in dire need of care. Nonetheless, that property, I would assume belongs to the government now. One can only hope that they can recoup some of the stolen monies from the sale of that property. Personally, I don't understand and never will… how he could have gone on from year to year with that heavy weight on his shoulders and still come across as an easy going, pleasant and seemingly very happy man. I cannot for the life of me understand how any human being could ever even give a passing thought to the idea that they would never get caught at those kinds of behaviors. This is the kind of stuff you only see on mystery or crime shows on TV but never even get close to in real life. I am still in shock over all of it. It has a long and lasting residual effect, the kind that never really goes away. I was in the Navy too. Steve told me he was a drummer in the Navy band and even showed me his old duty station one time down town. I often wondered and I even asked him one time… how do you go from being a drummer in the Navy band to having accumulated all this wealth? He laughed and said that he just always wanted to be wealthy. Heck, doesn't that apply to all of us… I thought. If it means steeling and having to look over your shoulder all the rest of your life… NO thank you. Not my cup of tea at all. Thanks for your response and your confirmation on Steve's character.

        • Ona

          Thank you Norman for the update. Greed can do nasty things to one's personality and make them do what you and I would consider unthinkable things. The negativity is done…wishing you a more positive future. All the best, Ona

  9. Norman Thellmann

    Ona, Thank you for your kind words. It is very much appreciated.

  10. Norm

    PS: In reviewing this entire story today, two years later, I noticed that I forgot to mention in the first paragraph of my response (posted above) that it was UNTRUE that "FBI agents searched his home and found $42,400 in cash" NOT TRUE! Not true at all. I voluntarily TOLD the FBI about that money that I was holding for Martinez's wife and children… they did NOT 'FIND" it, as the media stated. For the benefit of the reader, let it be clearly known to all who see this that 1. The media is NOT your friend. They are NOT there to get the facts in the proper order; they could care less about that. All they care about is selling newspapers and making money for their sponsors no matter who they have to ruin in the process. And, 2. The government is NOT your friend either!
    I cooperated FULLY in their investigation because of the fact that I was thrown under the bus by Martinez for one, and because I am an honest and truthful person for another. Two days before my sentencing in October of 2012 my attorney handed me a sealed document from the prosecutor’s office. I opened it and read it. It was several pages long. The first couple of pages listed the "crime" that I was supposedly guilty of and the latter pages were nothing but words of praise from that prosecutor, stating that without my assistance and full cooperation they would not have been able to prosecute to the extent that they did, in their criminal case against Steven Martinez. I want to make it very clear here for OTHERS, that you may LEARN from my experience that: It does not matter how honorable of a citizen you may have been for the entirety of your life, and the fact that you have never been in trouble with the law before or ever involved in any kind of criminal activity what so ever. Those attributes mean NOTHING AT ALL in your favor when it comes to being involved in a federal case. Cooperating with the so-called authorities gets you NOWHERE in the end. I wanted to take my case to trial and they insisted that I take a plea of guilty of Conspiracy to commit money laundering. I never "conspired" to do any such thing, not ever! I insisted on taking my case to trial but the prosecutor did not possess the integrity to look me in the eyes and thank me, face to face for my honest and sincere efforts of cooperation and he blatantly allowed my attorney to insist upon my taking their offer for a plea deal thus rendering me a felon for the rest of my otherwise, honorable life. Entrapment by "FEAR" is the tactics they used on me just so that the prosecutor could carve another notch in his bed post. FEAR that I would be tried along with Martinez in his trial and thus be tainted by the same jury and FEAR also because the prosecutor threatened me with a sentence of 13 years in prison if I did NOT take their plea deal. I have never even had so much as a dui on my record and I have a clean driving record as well and THIS is how MY government treats its "honorable" citizens? My message to the reader herewith is: If this government can do this to ME, they can and the WILL do it to YOU! Also, ANY government that has NOT within its set of laws, any form of forgiveness and compassion for a ONE TIME event which I was SET UP FOR in the first place… is NOT a government that deserves ANY form of respect from its citizens. REMEMBER THIS dear reader… do NOT make the mistake of thinking that something like this could never happen to you.

    You're welcome.

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