A convicted stock swindler was charged Tuesday in connection with a plot to torture and kill a federal judge and an assistant U.S. Attorney. The suspect claimed he wanted their heads cut-off and “preserved in formaldehyde as souvenirs,” the criminal complaint alleged.
Federal prosecutors said Joseph Romano wanted to pay a hit man $40,000 to kill the judge who sent him away for 15 years. But the alleged plot was foiled by undercover FBI agents who played the role of the hit men.
Officials said the undercover officers held meetings with Romano while he was in custody in the Nassau County Correctional Center. A jailhouse informant first alerted authorities about Romano’s boasts that he would get revenge on the judge and prosecutors.
“From prison, Romano allegedly plotted to murder the judge and prosecutor he felt were responsible for putting him there,” said New York FBI Acting-Director Mary Galligan. “In fact what put him in prison was his prior criminal conduct.”
Romano was in jail after being convicted of federal bank fraud and wire fraud charges for ripping off investors of $40 million dollars. He was sentenced to prison by Judge Joseph Bianco in February. He was also ordered to forfeit $7 million.
Investigators also arrested one of Romano’s business associates -- Dejvid Mirkovic -- for allegedly helping in the assassination plot. The FBI said Mirkovic had $18,000 in cash and a loaded 9 mm handgun when he was picked up in Florida. Undercover officers also met with Mirkovic who was allegedly acting as the middle-man and giving instructions to the supposed killers.
Some of the meetings are on video and audio tape, prosecutors said. They also said the suspects said they were willing to pay the hit men extra if they get the “souvenirs.”
As a test, the undercovers were asked to assault a man who owed Romano money. When Romano was shown fake photos of a bruised and battered victim, he allegedly paid the undercovers $1,500 dollars. With apparent proof of the assault, Romano allegedly agreed to move forward in the assassination plot.
“Any plot to harm or intimidate our judges and prosecutors will be vigorously investigated and prosecuted,” said U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch adding the two suspects tried to strike “a blow to the heart of our criminal justice system.”
Judge Bianco who presided over Romano's case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Lara Gatz was the lead prosecutor on the case. U.S. Attorney spokesman Robert Nardoza declined to answer questions about which officials might have been specifically targeted.
Mirkovic made his initial apperance in court in West Palm Beach, Fla., and consented to be sent to New York for trial. He is currently being held without bail.
Romano was due back in court in Central Islip. If convicted, the pair could face up to life in prison.