Judge sentences Ramona man to prison for money laundering, murder-for-hire plot

A former IRS agent-turned-tax preparer, who defrauded clients out of more than $11 million and then plotted their murders to prevent them from testifying about the theft, was sentenced Friday to nearly 24 years in federal prison.

Steven Martinez, of Ramona, pleaded guilty last August to a dozen charges, including murder-for-hire and money laundering.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Orabona told District Judge William Q. Hayes that the 51-year-old defendant deserved a significant sentence in part because he meticulously planned the murders by giving a would-be assassin — who was a cooperating witness for the FBI — detailed instructions and information about each of the four victims.

Martinez admitted in court that he tried to prevent the former clients’ testimony by offering the FBI’s cooperating witness $100,000 to murder them.

The defendant also admitted that he converted about $11 million in stolen taxpayer funds for his own personal benefit, using the money to make home improvements, purchase a beach house in Mexico, and pay for the use of a private airplane.

In addition to the 286-month sentence, Hayes ordered Martinez to pay more than $14 million in restitution to the victims, the Internal Revenue Service, and the California Franchise Tax Board.

   
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