A now-former NYPD officer from Oceanside pleaded guilty Friday to obstructing a grand jury investigation into her alleged plot to hire a hit man to kill her estranged husband and the teenage daughter of her boyfriend.
Valerie Cincinelli, 36, pleaded guilty to a single count of obstruction of justice, and now faces 46 to 57 months in prison under federal sentencing guidelines.
As part of the plea deal, the prosecutors agreed to drop two murder-for-hire charges — which each carried a penalty of up to 10 years in prison — at the former police officer's sentencing. They will recommend a 60-month sentence for Cincinelli.
"I know that what I did was wrong and I'm truly sorry for it," Cincinelli told U.S. District Judge Joanna Seybert while pleading guilty.
Cincinelli admitted that in May 2019, she deleted iPhone images while intending to obstruct a federal grand jury probe into murder-for-hire charges.
Before her indictment, she had been an NYPD officer for 12 years. She was suspended without pay after her arrest in May 2019 and resigned from her job last month, according to the NYPD.
The agency said previously that Cincinelli had worked in the 106th Precinct in Queens before her arrest, but had been on modified assignment without a gun since 2017 because of domestic incidents.
In her modified assignment, Cincinelli had been working in the Viper unit, which monitors surveillance cameras in public housing projects, an NYPD spokesman said previously.
Federal prosecutors have alleged Cincinelli was driven to break the law by greed, saying she didn’t want to share her pension with the estranged husband and thought her boyfriend was lavishing too much money and spending too much time with his daughter instead of with her.
The boyfriend eventually cooperated with authorities, officials said previously. Prosecutors have said Cincinelli had a "volatile" relationship with both her estranged husband and her boyfriend.
Authorities said at the time of Cincinelli's arrest that she was tricked into talking about her alleged murder plot with a cooperator after being shown a photo of her "murdered" estranged husband that the FBI staged, and that in February 2019 she withdrew $7,000 from a bank to pay "the hitman."
Cincinelli has been held in a Brooklyn jail since her arrest, with all bail applications denied. She broke down crying during Friday's proceeding at one point when the judge asked how long she had been in federal custody.
"For two years, I haven't seen my son," Cincinelli said as she wept.
The judge on Friday indicated she would consider a bail application for Cincinelli's release, saying there was "a big difference" between someone who had been facing "20 years plus" behind bars and someone now facing a maximum of about 40 more months or so in prison.
Cincinelli's attorney, James Kousouros, told the judge he previously had proposed a $2 million bail package that included Cincinelli's "entire family" chipping in and using up to four properties as collateral — along with an agreement for electronic monitoring upon the defendant's release.
But Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony Bagnuola said the government was opposed to Cincinelli's release before her sentencing. The prosecutor added that recently-deceased U.S. District Judge Sandra Feuerstein previously turned down the defense's bail application twice before an appellate court affirmed that decision.
"There's more to it, Your Honor, than simply the defendant has been incarcerated during the pandemic," Bagnuola said, citing in part emails Cincinelli sent from jail saying allegations against her "had been fabricated."
Kousouros said in an interview later Friday his client's plea was a resolution that was "negotiated after tremendous, intensive investigation and review of discovery" and that the defense was pleased with it.
"Hopefully now we’ll proceed to sentence and Valerie will be able to get her life back and move on," he added.
The Manhattan attorney confirmed he'd continue to seek Cincinelli's release before sentencing, saying there was "a significant change in circumstances" given her guilty plea.
"We’re pleased that at least the court will consider releasing Valerie given the pandemic-caused delays in sentencing," he also said.
John Marzulli, a spokesman for the Eastern District of the U.S. attorney's office, said later Friday that prosecutors had no further comment on the case.