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Monday, May 27, 2024 | Back issues
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Dirty Tax Man Gets 24 Years in Prison

SAN DIEGO (CN) - A former IRS agent turned tax preparer was sentenced Friday to 24 years in prison for defrauding clients of $11 million and plotting to murder them to cover it up.

Steven Martinez, 55, of Ramona, was sentenced to 286 months in federal prison and ordered to pay more than $14 million in restitution, and to forfeit property as a start, the U.S. Attorney's Office said in a statement.

He pleaded guilty in August 2012 to 12 counts of a superseding indictment, including guilty pleas to mail fraud, witness tampering, money laundering, aggravated identity theft, solicitation of a crime of violence and use of a facility of interstate commerce in commission of murder for hire. The original indictment charged him with 55 counts.

At the sentencing hearing, "Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Orabona argued for a significant sentence in part because Martinez 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 contained in 'packets,'" prosecutors said in the statement.

The statement continued: "One of the exchanges between Martinez and the cooperating witness was captured on video.

"'These victims were surveilled. They were watched. Their habits were documented. It's disturbing,' Orabona said. 'This was a cool and calculating individual. He knew how the victims lived. He's explaining it to the hit man on the video.'"

According to the U.S. attorney's statement: "As part of his guilty plea, Martinez admitted that in late February 2012, he solicited a third party to murder four witnesses with the intent to prevent their testimony in his pending criminal tax case.

"The third party contacted the San Diego division of the FBI on Feb. 28, 2012 to report the murder-for-hire plot by Martinez and agreed to cooperate with the FBI in the investigation. According to the complaint, a subsequent meeting between the FBI's cooperating witness and Martinez was recorded and videotaped by the FBI.

"In reference to two of the murder targets, Martinez told the would-be assassin 'he could make him rich for the rest of his life, $100,000 cash, if he eliminated the lady in Rancho Santa Fe and the lady in La Jolla,' according to court records. The cooperating witness said Martinez 'suggested that the former employee use two different pistols for the murders and that he acquire a silencer.'

"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. He admitted he provided the third party with four written packets of detailed information about the former clients, including photos of the soon-to-be murder victims, their homes and personal information. Martinez admitted that once the murders took place, he would pay the perpetrator $40,000 in cash, followed by the remaining $60,000 in cash within 72 hours of the murders.

"In addition, Martinez admitted that he filed false tax returns and defrauded his clients by stealing over $11 million in tax payments."

With the stolen $11 million, Martinez bought a beach house in Mexico, rented or leased an airplane, spent more than $2 million on other stuff and "invested" another $2 million, prosecutors said.

He also - brace yourself - cheated on his taxes.

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