A wheelman who drove the hired killers of millionaire hotel heir Ben Novack Jr. from Brooklyn to Florida after the 2009 Westchester County murder will avoid jail for his role in the crime.
Francisco Picado, 23, was sentenced Friday to time served and two years post-release supervision on Friday in U.S. District Court in White Plains. Judge Kenneth Karas could have sentenced Picado to a maximum of 15 years behind bars, with guidelines recommending 6 1/2 to 8 years, for his role as the getaway driver after the July 12, 2009, slaying.
Picado's wife and other family members attended the sentencing, U.S. Attorney's spokesman Herbert Hadad said.
Picado pleaded guilty in September 2011 to driving the hitmen, Joel Gonzalez and Alejandro Garcia, from Brooklyn to Miami after the murder. He subsequently cooperated with authorities in the investigation and testified at the 2012 trial of the victim's estranged wife Narcisa "Narcy" Novack, 56, and her brother Cristobal Veliz, 59, both of whom plotted the killings. Picado testified that he was paid $500, but said he didn't know that a murder had been committed until after they were headed to Miami.
Picado must spend the first six months of his post-release supervision in home confinement except to work, school or attend religious services, Hadad said. He also must get alcohol counseling due to previous DWI convictions, he added.
"It's been a long road ahead and we're at the end, and now hopefully everything will come out the way we wanted it to," Picado told News12 before the sentencing.
"It's been a long road to redemption for Frank," added his attorney Paul Prestia.
Novack, the 53-year-old son of the founder of Miami Beach's legendary Fontainebleau Hotel, was bound with duct tape and beaten to death with dumbbells by the hitmen sent by his wife and Veliz to his Rye Town Hilton suite. Ben Novack ran a hotel convention consulting business and was in town overseeing an Amway Global convention there, according to court documents.
The victim's mother, 86-year-old Bernice Novack, was fatally beaten with a plumber's wrench on April 4, 2009, during an attack by a Veliz accomplice at her Fort Lauderdale, Fla., home.
Novack and Veliz were convicted last June for plotting the murders and were sentenced in December to life in prison. They have maintained their innocence and are appealing their convictions.
During the trial, prosecutors argued that Narcy Novack wanted her husband of 21 years and her mother-in-law dead so she could inherit the family fortune, estimated at $8 million. She feared that her husband was going to leave her for ex-porn actress Rebecca Bliss, 40, and that a prenuptial agreement would provide her with a mere $65,000.
In recommending leniency for Picado, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara noted in a letter sent Monday to Karas that Picado "knew nothing about the assault on Ben Novack until after it had occurred," Bharara wrote. Veliz called Picado the night before the murder and asked if he was available to drive to Florida the next morning, Bharara wrote.
Picado was influenced to help Veliz, a cousin's father-in-law whom he saw as a "father figure," because he had "developed a good and trusting relationship with Veliz," Bharara wrote.
The cousin, Dennis Ramirez, drove the hit men from Brooklyn to the Hilton and back again after the Ben Novack killing. Ramirez pleaded guilty to his role in February 2011 and testified at the trial.
Garcia and Gonzalez, the hit men, pleaded guilty in June 2010 and January 2011, respectively, to their roles and also testified. Ramirez, Garcia and Gonzalez are awaiting sentencing. Their sentencing dates have not yet been set, Hadad said.