By Jessica Dye
NEW YORK, Nov 9 (Reuters) - A convicted fraudster has been
indicted on charges that he sought to hire a hit man to murder a
federal judge and a prosecutor, and have their heads preserved
in formaldehyde as "souvenirs."
While in prison, Joseph Romano, 49, tried to pay two
undercover officials, one posing as a hit man, to kill the Long
Island judge who presided over his 2009 criminal case and the
assistant U.S. attorney who led the prosecution, according to a
complaint unsealed in September.
A spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office declined to
confirm the targets of the alleged threats, but court records
indicate that U.S. District Judge Joseph Bianco was the judge
and the lead prosecutor was Lara Gatz.
Dejvid Mirkovic, 38, a former business associate of Romano,
also was indicted in the murder-for-hire plot, according to an
indictment released Wednesday.
Both men face life in prison if convicted.
Judges in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District
of New York, where Bianco sits, have been disqualified from
presiding over the case, according to an administrative order
handed down Thursday by Chief Judge Carol Amon. U.S. District
Judge John Keenan in the Southern District of New York has been
assigned to the matter.
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 to 15 years in prison in February.
After 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,
the informant alerted authorities, who sent an undercover
officer to meet with him, according to the complaint.
Soon after, Romano directed Mirkovic to give the officer 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 saved
as "souvenirs," the complaint said.
Lawyers for Romano and Mirkovic could not be immediately
reached for comment Friday. A spokesman for the U.S. attorney's
office declined to comment.
The case is U.S. v. Romano et al., U.S. District Court for
the Eastern District of New York, No. 12-691.
For the U.S.: Michael Canty and Marshall Miller.
For Romano: Joseph Kilada.
For Mirkovic: Jack Goldberger.
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