2 accused in plot to kill LI judge, prosecutor
A Levittown man serving a prison sentence for running a bogus collectible-coin scam has confessed to hiring for $40,000 two undercover police officers posing as hit men to kill a federal judge and a prosecutor, authorities said.
Joseph Romano, 49, was charged, along with a Florida business associate, with conspiring to murder a United States District Court judge and an assistant United States attorney because of the performance of their official duties.
Assistant U.S. Attorney John Durham made the accusation Tuesday in federal court in Central Islip at the arraignment of Romano, who was not required to enter a plea.
In the warrant for Romano's arrest, FBI agent Reynaldo Tariche said that Romano wanted the judge and prosecutor dead "to retaliate against them for their respective roles in his underlying prosecution, conviction and sentence."
Court papers did not identify the intended victims, but sources identified them as U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Bianco and Assistant U.S. Attorney Lara Treinis-Gatz. Bianco and Treinis-Gatz also are named in court papers during Romano's trial as the sentencing judge and the lead prosecutor.
Romano's alleged associate, Dejvid Mirkovic, 38, of Lake Worth, Fla., was arrested Tuesday, officials said.
During Romano's trial in 2010, Treinis-Gatz said that, between 2001 and 2007, Romano cheated 1,500 victims, most of them elderly, out of $40 million using high-pressure tactics to sell vastly overpriced collectible coins such as Benjamin Franklin half-dollars through his three Long Island companies.
Bianco in February called Romano's scheme "a massive fraud that was motivated by pure greed" when he sentenced him to 15 years in prison.
Romano's attorney, Joseph Kilada, declined to comment.
Romano told one of the alleged hit men that he wanted to hire him for "a big job, some serious work," according to the agent.
Besides the killings, "Romano requested that the heads of both the judge and the AUSA be preserved in formaldehyde as souvenirs," the warrant said.
One of the purported hit men was told that "Romano was willing to pay extra for the 'souvenirs' " if the undercover officer was willing to store them until Romano's release from prison, according to the arrest warrant.
The officers became involved in August when Romano was housed at the Nassau County jail awaiting a hearing on his case, court papers said. A confidential informant had told officials that Romano was looking for somebody to kill the judge and prosecutor.
The two officers met with Romano and Mirkovic "numerous times at locations on Long Island, including the Nassau County Correctional Center . . . and the meetings were recorded," according to Loretta Lynch, the United States attorney for the Eastern District.
Romano first tested the hit men by ordering them to assault a man identified in documents only as John Doe, with whom Romano had a business dispute, according to Lynch.
Approached by law enforcement officers, the man agreed to cooperate and staged photographs of the results of the supposed beating and also provided an ID card to show Romano, the papers said.
Satisfied, Romano then had Mirkovic pay one of the undercover officers $22,000, and promised the additional $18,000 when the judge and the prosecutor were dead, according to court papers.
Mirkovic had $18,000 in cash on him when he was arrested Tuesday, officials said.