Tax preparer receives new sentencing date in murder-for-hire case

By Neal Putnam

A federal judge set a Jan. 17 sentencing date for a Ramona tax preparer who pleaded guilty to soliciting a murder-for-hire plot in which he asked a would-be hit man to kill three witnesses who were his former clients.

The U.S. Attorney’s office has recommended a 23-year federal prison term for Steven Martinez, 51, and a forfeiture of $11 million. His attorney is seeking a sentence of no more than 10 years, according to court records.

Martinez pleaded guilty Aug. 10 to soliciting a violent crime, money laundering, witness tampering, procuring false tax returns, Social Security fraud, aggravated identity theft, and making false tax returns from his business.

No actual murder attempts were made as Martinez was arrested in February after the would-be hit man notified the FBI. None of the would-be victims lived in Ramona. Martinez remains in jail without bail.

U.S. District Court Judge William Hayes sent e-mails to the attorneys last week canceling the scheduled Dec. 14 sentencing and the new sentencing date.

Martinez’s limo driver, Norman Russell Thellmann, 65, of Santee, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering after federal agents found $42,400 in cash inside a cereal box in his kitchen. Thellmann claimed he didn’t know about the murder plot, but was following instructions to give the money to another person.

The would-be victims were witnesses who had been expected to testify in Martinez’s trial for mail fraud. He was free on bond when he started the murder-for-hire plot.

Martinez was a former agent with the Internal Revenue Service. As a tax preparer he instructed his clients to pay their tax debts to client trust accounts instead of the IRS. Martinez then used those accounts for his own use.

He filed two sets of returns for some clients. One showed they owed a lot of taxes and another return that showed they didn’t owe much.

Related posts:

  1. CPA awaits detention hearing in murder-for-hire case
  2. Ramona man pleads guilty to murder-for-hire plot
  3. Ramona tax preparer pleads not guilty to 55 charges
  4. Federal agents arrest Ramona CPA for alleged murder-for-hire plot

  5. Ramona tax preparer arraigned on 49 federal counts

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Posted by Karen Brainard on Dec 26 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

18 Comments for “Tax preparer receives new sentencing date in murder-for-hire case”

  1. Norman Thellmann

    There have 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.

    (Continued on NEXT comment)…

  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)…

    • guest

      "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…"

      I knew steve when he was married to his first wife. I also clicked around and googled "steven and cynthia martinez of Ramona, CA" and saw his Mom's Obituary.
      HIs former wife (name wtheld) always thought he had a tendency to lie and at like a big shot. He was charming, easygoing i remember.

      Here is the link :

      Double check the date, sir. she passed May 2011.

      Best of luck to you and check out the reputation clear on the web services…perhaps they can assist you getting your good nme back.

  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

    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

  9. Norman Thellmann

    There has been negative 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.
    I have lived in San Diego since 1975 and have lived 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 decent, law biding human being.
    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

  10. guest

    You may have not been aware of the murder plot, but only a"wanna be member of Martinez's Entourage" was your reasoning and the basis for hanging out with a known rip off, selfish and greedy man. You took the money as a "favor" for someone you've known four years. No sir, you had hopes that if this man was found not guilty, you would be his "TRUE FRIEND" who stuck by him during his darkest hour. You may not be a killer, but you were either hoping or expecting to get your "beak wet", if he was set free.
    You may be god fearing, perhaps that is why you are so gullible to trust a little man like Martinez. You have one year probation and your name in the papers. no one cares sir. Get over this and stop the martyrdom.

    • Norm

      I would strongly suggest that before you or anyone takes a stab at making "assumptions" about what, who, or why I am and/or what my relationship truly was with Steve Martinez that you get your FACTS CORRECT first before allowing your personal emotions and, at best, guessing attempts at other peoples lives to overwhelm you with self righteousness. You have absolutely NO idea what so EVER of what you are stating on here. I never aspired to be a so-called "wanna-be" anything in my life. I am as genuine as genuine gets. You don't know what the relationship was between he and I and if you did, you would be at ease with posting your identity on here Mr. Gurgley Pipes. You have absolutely no facts about any of this. The truth of the matter is posed (above) and what "I" wrote. Not what you assume to be. I would never stick by anyone whom I knew for a fact was going to commit or attempt to commit murder what so ever! There is also a thing called a "Line in the sand". The person in Steven Martinez whom I thought was a "friend" (just as I once thought YOU were a friend) did not take into consideration that I was in fact, just that, a friend. Someone who he could talk to and I told him that. But instead, he decided to through me under the bus and set me up for something that I was not aware of nor did I ever even consider that he would do to me. Yes, I am a friend to those who value such a thing but not to those who treat me wrongly as he did and… as you did. I know who you are. I never had any such hopes as you say if he were NOT found guilty because he had not shown to me any such proof that he was guilty of anything before all of that happened. I have not, nor have I ever had any high hopes of anything regarding your phrase of: "Getting my beak wet". I have indeed (as you say) "stopped the martyrdom" on the date that I wrote the (above) response to the story in the Ramona Sentinal. As a human being and as a citizen I have the right to stand up for my beliefs, feelings and for the facts AS THEY OCCURED in this case and to DEFEND myself against the limited view of what the media decided they wanted to post about me. That, is why I took the time to post the events and the facts as they happened and as the "matter of fact TRUTH". If you don't like what you see posed here or anywhere regarding ME… then don't read the posts! The VERY reason WHY I posted my side of the story… the "truth" is because of people like you… you are an exact mirror image of the media. The media always loves to post things that make them look like the almighty authority on everything and, if it is in the "printed word" by God it must be true! Well, I will continue, in spite of your last six words, to defend my self, my good reputation and my life. If you should feel the need to continue to exploit my good nature and my character then perhaps things of a different kind of lawful response will have to be considered in the future. By the way, dating a married woman is not legal either. You may want to take that into consideration…

    • Norman R. Thellmann

      By the way you have posted your words… I believe I know who you are with certainty.
      It is human nature, like the towns people whose sole desire was to stone to death the woman at the Well and then… Jesus told them: 'Those who have never sinned be the first to cast a stone at her'. In like manner, you have to ask yourself, how would YOU respond to the very same words that you wrote in your post above, to me? You see, it is ALWAYS easier to be the Monday morning quarterback, sitting there on your stool and pointing and grunting at the player who YOU thought could have done a better job when in fact… if the tables were turned, and you were in his shoes… how then, would you react? You are typical of the human race and are short sighted when it comes to looking in the mirror at your own misgivings.

  11. NM Ramona

    Sorry to hear you like a lot of people believed in this man . He held countless parties in that big home with plenty of cars lining up on Massey grade. I heard he use to be a soccer coach.. Although he lived one block over from me and my family, I never met or saw him or his family, though I always wondered about the fancy house that seemed out of place,

    • guest

      I agree, his house was out of place, guady and way too ornate for a mellow town like Ramona

    • Norm

      When I first saw that house, I was shocked as well. I first showed up there one day about four years ago and my reasoning for going there was as that of a limousine driver. I had only met Steve two weeks earlier and he had a friendly, humorous personality and I liked the guy. Then I met his wife and kids and he told me that he was a CPA and had clients all over the country and it was all very believable. Who was I to question another mans success in life? In the end, he through me under the bus, I did not see that coming and now, because of my good nature and being a trusting person, my reputation has been ruined and I am not nor will I ever be happy about that.

  12. Norm

    Whether it be a good thing or a bad thing. There will always be those who envy the rich and what they have rather than to be happy for them and for what they have achieved in life. The only difference in this instance was that the "achieved" was not honest in its forthcoming. How could any of us know for certain what the real source of this man's or of any mans true outer expression of wealth is in life? Those things are only revealed by knowing the truth. And, as it would be… we now know what that truth is…. don't we? Some humans seem to possess a sense of sociopathic behavior so much so that those around them take it for what is presumed to be the real deal. I am a wise and intelligent man. I have for the duration of the entire 66 years of my life avoided any problems with the law and never even considered doing anything illegal or against the law. It just is and never was a part of my makeup. In this case here, I could have taken what I knew at the time to be my friends families money and used it on myself… but I am not that kind of a person. When a friend asks me for a favor and if it is within my means and nothing illegal, I will seriously consider doing it for them. At the time, I did not see or know of anything wrong with holding what I thought was my friends savings money for the benefit of his wife and three young children. They pulled on my heart strings and I took Steve at face value because he never gave me any reason to believe otherwise. I only knew Steve for four years and even at that we only saw each other on a rare occasion when I would drive to his house and take them out to dinner in his private limousine. I was just his limousine driver. We became closer friends later but even then is was not close, close. Once in a while he would have a back yard cookout and invite me up to his house for burgers and to go for a swim. I knew my place as a friend and I did not abuse that. I respected the fact that he liked me and wanted me to drive for him and the relationship was pretty much just that other than an occasional back yard cookout. He did not divulge anything to me about his personal or business life and I did not ask about those things. Any common knowledge was known by several people who hung out at a bar in Grantville where we all used to gather socially. I was the only one in the entire group who did not consume alcohol and thus, probably the main reason why Steve liked me being his limousine driver. I would drive not just him but his wife and children too and I am certain that my not being a drinker was a helpful factor in his mind. Yes, other people got wind, just as I did about Steve's legal problems that began to surface and he and his attorney both felt that his problems were "defensible" and being a happy-go-lucky guy that Steve was, we all wished him well. None of us had any idea at all about the true, underlying facts and what his ultimate plans were until the very end. Had I have gotten wind of it… I would have taken the money I was holding for his family back to his house and handed it back to him. But, how was I to know that I was going to be set up by, what I thought was a "friend"? There is nothing wrong with having nice things and a huge home, if that is what you can afford but what is wrong is how one obtains those things. In looking at this whole thing, I, for one, could never put my head down on the pillow at night and sleep, knowing that I was living a pretentious life. I have always lived within my means, in the humblest of places and always, grateful for everything I have and never been in want of someone else's possessions.

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