A veteran New York City police officer from Oceanside wept Friday as she pleaded not guilty to charges that she schemed to murder her estranged husband and the young daughter of her boyfriend.
Valerie Cincinelli, 34, was charged with two counts of murder for hire and one count of obstruction of justice, according to the indictment filed in federal court in Central Islip.
Cincinelli entered the courtroom in tears, and waved to her family, including her mother and siblings.
Federal Magistrate Gary Brown asked her if she understood the charges.
"Yes, sir," Cincinelli said as she dabbed tears.
The obstruction count involves Cincinelli’s alleged attempt to block investigation into the alleged crimes by destroying two cellphones and the records they contained to impede the investigation, the indictment says.
Prosecutors said as part of discovery they planned to hand over audio and video recordings to the defense.
Brown continued Cincinelli in jail without bond, where she has been held since her arrest May 17 as a danger to the community. Her next court appearance is scheduled for June 26.
The NYPD suspended the officer without pay after her arrest last month.
If convicted of murder for hire, Cincinelli could face up to 10 years on each count; obstruction of justice carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison.
Cincinelli's attorney, James Kousouros, of Manhattan, said afterward: "We're in the process of investigating the case and we should soon have information that should shed light on the situation" and show her innocence.
Eastern District federal prosecutors Catherine Mirabile and Lara Treinis Gatz declined to comment after the arraignment.
Cincinelli's family members also declined to comment.
The indictment identified the targets of the murder plot only as John Doe and Jane Doe.
But prosecutors in court papers have said the intended victims were Cincinelli's estranged husband and the minor daughter of the officer's boyfriend.
Victims of an alleged crime are not usually named in federal indictments.
A key person who led to Cincinelli’s arrest was identified in court papers only as CS, for confidential source. The source was “romantically involved” with Cincinelli, although one of the two would-be victims of the murder scheme was his minor daughter, prosecutors said in the court papers. Cincinelli was also in “a volatile relationship” with both her estranged husband and the confidential source, the papers said.
The source initially told Cincinelli he would find a hit man to carry out the murders of the estranged husband and his own daughter for $7,000, and that the source would pay him in gold coins, the court papers said. Cincinelli withdrew $7,000 from a bank to pay “the hit man,” the papers said.
But eventually the confidential source told the FBI about the plot and cooperated in government recordings in which Cincinelli talked about the plot, the court papers said.
The papers said Cincinelli was tricked into talking about the murder plot with the confidential source after she was shown a picture staged by the FBI, showing her estranged husband, who had supposedly been killed.
Cincinelli allegedly said in one of the recordings that the hit man should kill her estranged husband near his job in Holtsville, stating “it would not look suspicious because the murder would take place in ‘the hood’ or ‘the ghetto,’" court papers said.
Cincinelli used the social media account of the confidential source's daughter to locate her for the killing, the prosecutors said in the papers.
When the source told Cincinelli that the hit man “did not want to carry out the murder near a school, [Cincinelli] responded, ‘[r]un her the [expletive deleted] over, how about that?’ ” the court papers said.
Cincinelli joined the NYPD in 2007 and since 2017 has been on modified assignment without a gun because of domestic incidents, an NYPD spokesman said after her arrest.
After being placed on modified status, Cincinelli had been working with the Viper unit, which monitors surveillance cameras at city public housing areas. Previously she had worked in the 106th Precinct in Queens, the spokesman said.
With Anthony M. DeStefano