Ramona man pleads guilty to murder-for-hire plot
A former Internal Revenue Service agent and tax preparer pleaded guilty to a dozen felonies Friday in connection with a plot to murder four witnesses against him in a criminal fraud case, reports the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Steven Martinez, 51, entered his pleas to soliciting a violent crime, use of interstate commerce to commit murder-for-hire, witness tampering, money laundering and mail fraud — among other charges.
Federal prosecutors said the Ramona man admitted that in February he asked someone to kill four witnesses who were set to testify against him in a tax fraud case. The would-be “hit man” reported the solicitation to the FBI.
In a subsequent meeting between the defendant and the person who made the report, which was recorded by investigators, Martinez offered to pay $40,000 immediately following the murders and an additional $60,000 within 72 hours, according to the complaint.
He also provided the unnamed individual with packets of detailed information about the intended victims, including photographs. The four witnesses were not identified, but the complaint says Martinez referred to women in La Jolla and Rancho Santa Fe.
In the original tax case, Martinez admitted that he stole $11 million total from his victims and used it to purchase a beach house in Mexico, home improvements, use of a private aircraft, make $2 million in investments and pay off about $2 million in loans and credit card debt, according to prosecutors.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said the defendant created falsely inflated tax returns and had his clients write checks to a fake trust account instead of directly to the IRS or California Franchise Tax Board. He also had them file current year estimated taxes into the same account.
He then converted the funds to his own use, prosecutors said. The tax forms he actually filed with the government indicated his clients owed little or no money.
Martinez is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge William Hayes on Nov. 30. If the judge runs the sentences consecutively, he could be sentenced to nearly 100 years behind bars.
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