A former New York suburban police officer turned drug dealer was convicted Thursday in the strangulation death of one man and the execution-style murders of three others.
Nicholas Tartaglione was convicted in White Plains federal court after a three-week trial that occurred nearly four years after he briefly was a cellmate of Jeffrey Epstein, a notorious sexual predator and financier.
The bodies were recovered in December 2016, about eight months after the four were killed in Otisville, about 70 miles (113 kilometers) north of Manhattan.
U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement that Tartaglione masterminded the killings after suspecting that one of the victims, Martin Luna, had stolen money from him.
The prosecutor said he lured Luna into meeting him in a bar in what became a “deadly trap” for the man, two of his nephews and a family friend he brought with him. Prosecutors said in court papers that Tartaglione drove Luna’s body to his Otisville ranch, while his co-conspirators brought the other three men “alive and bound” to the same place.
“What occurred next could only be described as pure terror, as Tartaglione tortured Martin, then forced one of his nephews to watch as Tartaglione strangled Martin to death with a zip tie,” Williams said.
The prosecutor said Tartaglione and two associates then transported the three other men to a remote wooded location, forcing them to kneel before shooting each of them in the back of the head and burying all four in a mass grave. Prosecutors said Tartaglione shot one of the remaining three men himself.
“Tartaglione’s heinous acts represent a broader betrayal, as he was a former police officer who once swore to protect the very community he devastated,” Williams said.
He said the conviction will ensure that “Tartaglione faces a lifetime in federal prison for his unconscionable murder of four men.”
At trial, defense attorneys argued that Tartaglione had nothing to do with the killings and was being used by the government as a convenient fall guy.
In July 2019, Tartaglione shared a Manhattan jail cell with Epstein when the wealthy financier was placed on suicide watch after being discovered with bruises on his neck. Epstein hanged himself weeks later while awaiting trial on sex-trafficking charges.