By Jessica Dye
NEW YORK, Oct 9 (Reuters) - A convicted fraudster has been
charged with seeking to hire a hit man to murder a federal judge
and prosecutor, then to save their heads in formaldehyde as
"souvenirs," according to a complaint unsealed Tuesday in
Joseph Romano, 49, tried to pay two undercover officials,
one posing as a hit man, $40,000 to kill the judge who presided
over his 2009 criminal case and the assistant U.S. attorney who
led the prosecution, the complaint said.
U.S. District Judge Joseph Bianco was the lead judge in
Romano's case, according to public court records, and the lead
prosecutors were assistant U.S. attorneys Diane
Leonardo-Beckmann, Lara Gatz and Thomas Sullivan. A spokesman
for the U.S. attorney's office for the Eastern District declined
to confirm the targets of the alleged threats. Bianco declined
Dejvid Mirkovic, 38, a former business associate of Romano,
who is serving a 15-year prison sentence, also was charged in
the alleged plot. Both men face life in prison if convicted.
Romano was one of five defendants charged in 2009 with
running a boiler-room operation related to the sale of valuable
coins. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank and wire
fraud, and was sentenced in February.
Romano, who was incarcerated at the Nassau County
Correctional Center, allegedly told a confidential informant
that he wanted to take out a hit on the judge and prosecutor who
had handled his case, the complaint said.
The informant told federal authorities, who sent an
undercover officer to meet with Romano, the complaint said. At
first, Romano allegedly asked the undercover officer to assault
an unidentified man as a test.
When the undercover officer returned with staged evidence of
an assault, Romano directed Mirkovic to give him the green light
to murder the judge and prosecutor, the complaint said. Mirkovic
offered the officer a $20,000 down payment and said that Romano
had requested that the victims' heads be preserved in
formaldehyde as "souvenirs," the complaint said.
On Oct. 2, prosecutors said, Mirkovic flew to Florida to
meet with the undercover officer and finalize the arrangements.
He was arrested on Tuesday and appeared before a federal
magistrate judge in West Palm Beach, Florida.
A lawyer for Mirkovic, Jack Goldberger, said his client
would voluntarily return to New York to face the charges.
"When the dust settles, it will be clear that Mr. Mirkovic
was tricked into participating in this, and he's not guilty of
the crime," Goldberger said.
Romano is scheduled to appear before a magistrate judge in
Central Islip Tuesday afternoon.
"Romano thought he was buying revenge," U.S. Attorney
Loretta Lynch said in a statement. "Instead, he bought the full
force of the law, along with a possible life sentence."
A lawyer for Romano wasn't immediately available for
The case is U.S. v. Romano, U.S. District Court for the
Eastern District of New York, No. 12-929.
For the U.S.: Michael Canty, Diane Leonardo and John Durham.
For Romano: Joseph Kilada.
For Mirkovic: Jack Goldberger.
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