CPA Accused of Tax Fraud Is Now Suspect in Plot to Murder Witnesses
A San Diego-area CPA, heading to trial on an $11 million tax fraud scheme, has been arrested for allegedly plotting to hire an acquaintance to murder two people planning to testify for the prosecution.
According to news reports, the FBI stated that Steven Martinez, age fifty-one, of Ramona, California, was arrested March 2 without incident. A second man was also arrested that night in relation to the alleged plot: Norman Russell Thellmann, age sixty, a former limousine driver for Martinez. Thellmann is accused of accepting money to pass on to a proposed hit man. FBI agents found $42,500 in cash in a cereal box in a kitchen cupboard in Thellmann's residence.
U.S. District Court papers say Martinez offered a former employee $100,000 in cash to kill the two female witnesses, provided the man with photos and personal information about the women, and suggested he use a gun with a silencer. The acquaintance notified the FBI, and Martinez, a former IRS agent, was arrested two days later.
Martinez now faces witness-tampering charges in addition to filing false tax returns, money laundering, identity theft, mail fraud, and other criminal counts. Court papers say his tax fraud scheme involved preparing tax returns that showed his clients owing a significant amount of tax. He then diverted his clients' payments to his own account and submitted returns that showed much smaller liabilities. He is accused of defrauding the IRS and the California Franchise Tax Board of more $11 million owed by his clients. Martinez and Thellmann, accused of conspiring to tamper with a witness, appeared before a federal judge on March 5 but did not enter pleas.