A former IRS agent hired a hitman to kill two key witnesses in a federal fraud trial, prosecutors say.
FBI agents arrested ex-IRS agent Steven Martinez, 51, at an office in San Diego where he ran a private tax-preparation business, the Associated Press reports. The FBI also found $41,000 in cash for the alleged hits, hidden in a cereal box at the home of Martinez's limo driver.
Martinez was already facing 49 criminal counts in connection with allegedly stealing $11 million in tax payments from more than a dozen wealthy clients, San Diego's KNSD-TV reports. An informant's tip uncovered Martinez's alleged murder-for-hire plot.
Ex-IRS agent Steven Martinez allegedly asked a former employee to be the hitman. The targets were two wealthy ex-customers who were set to testify at Martinez's fraud trial, the AP reports.
Martinez told the ex-employee to use a silencer and two different guns for the two killings, prosecutors allege. He also allegedly gave the hitman photos of the women he wanted killed.
The hitman called the FBI, and agents set up a sting that allegedly caught Martinez giving instructions on tape, according to the AP.
Martinez is now charged with the additional crime of witness tampering. Federal law defines the crime as killing or attempting to kill another person with intent to prevent the person's attendance or testimony at an official proceeding.
If witness tampering involves an attempt to murder, a perpetrator can face up to 20 years in prison.
Ex-IRS agent Steven Martinez's limo driver -- who was supposed to deliver cash to the hitman, and allegedly hid the cash in a cereal box -- was also arrested. The 64-year-old driver faces a charge of conspiracy to tamper with witnesses.