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.