An Imperfect Murder

The sordid tale of a cunning Marielito, an ambitious ATF agent, and a dead mobster in Lighthouse Point

Slipping out of his grasp, Carnes fell out of the window. "I went face first in the concrete," she said, "and I sprung up and I ran through my yard and through my neighbor's yard and ran to the neighbors that I know are home all the time."

Carnes burst through the door without knocking. "Please call the police," she yelled. "This guy just tried to kill me. Please don't let me die."

The young woman curled into a fetal position on the floor and rocked back and forth.

In 1996, Moretto was arrested for his involvement in a Genovese gambling operation.
In 1996, Moretto was arrested for his involvement in a Genovese gambling operation.
Moretto purchased this house at 2921 NE 39th St. in Lighthouse Point for his ex-girlfriend and 8-year-old daughter.
Colby Katz
Moretto purchased this house at 2921 NE 39th St. in Lighthouse Point for his ex-girlfriend and 8-year-old daughter.

Martinez's luck with the law finally ran out on April 6, 1996, two months after the final incident with Carnes. That day, Martinez arrived at Miami Acura at 16601 S. Dixie Hwy. in a blue Jaguar XJ7. He was trying to buy another car using fake identification and a stolen credit card. The dealership became suspicious and called authorities.

Miami-Dade police discovered that the Jaguar he arrived in had been reported stolen from West Palm Beach. As officers tried to handcuff Martinez, the Cuban punched both men in an attempt to escape. It didn't work.

Martinez had good reason for wanting to flee. He was already awaiting trial for a stolen-car rap related to the Rolls-Royce he'd given Carnes. The incident at Miami Acura added four new charges: two for grand theft auto and two for battery on a law enforcement officer. Martinez was looking at decades in prison.

Out on bond, Martinez called Miami-Dade Police Detective Hector Rivera, claiming he could provide information about drug smugglers. In return, he asked for leniency in his upcoming trials. It was a scheme Martinez would eventually master: providing information to law enforcement to save his own ass.

Rivera was interested in at least listening. But the volunteer snitch quickly became a nuisance. One night, Martinez called the detective. He sounded drunk. "He says, 'I have a guy that I know down in the Keys that has a hundred and something kilos of cocaine,'" Rivera explained in a 1997 deposition. But Martinez couldn't provide any additional information.

"Luis is a groupie," Rivera surmised. "He wants to be something he's not, whether involved with the police or whatever. Couldn't name any of the guys, date of birth, name the boat. He couldn't do anything like that."

And so Miami-Dade police never helped with his trials. From February to July 1997, Martinez received a total of 30 years behind bars for three charges of trafficking in stolen property, three of grand theft auto, two of battery on a law enforcement officer, and one of resisting arrest.

Five years later, while at Martin Correctional Institution in Indiantown, Martinez found a way to regain his freedom. Francisco Beltran, a Fort Lauderdale man who in 1996 had been sentenced to 75 years in prison for sodomizing his 3-month-old son, told Martinez that he wanted to kill Broward Judge Mark A. Speiser and Assistant State Attorney Dennis Siegel, both of whom had handled his case. Martinez called the ATF, and the federal agency helped set up a sting.

Martinez informed Beltran that he had a friend named Richie who could murder both men for a price. That friend was in fact Richard Zayas, an ATF special agent based in Tampa. Beltran asked Zayas to visit him in prison by posing as an attorney. During a visit on September 24, 2002, Zayas showed the inmate pictures of his "toys," the word the pair had used for pipe bombs. Beltran agreed to pay Zayas $1,000 to murder both men.

The next month, federal prosecutors indicted the prisoner for his role in the murder for hire. Beltran pleaded guilty and was sentenced to ten additional years in prison.

Martinez's reasons for selling out a fellow inmate were anything but altruistic. "It was plain English," Zayas said in a May 14 deposition. "He wanted cooperation."

The ATF pulled strings, and Martinez was released from prison on November 4, 2002, 25 years before the expiration of his sentence. Three months later, he married a long-time girlfriend, real estate agent Nadezda Stefanovich, and settled into a suburban life in Lauderhill as a husband and stepfather of two teenage girls.

But there was a catch. "Part of the agreement with him being released from prison," Zayas admitted in a deposition, "was that he was going to work with us."

Charlie Moretto always knew the score. As a businessman, he could be cutthroat. "He's a real gambler, and he's a very brilliant man," 46-year-old ex-girlfriend Deborah Basha remembered in a statement to police. "There's nobody like him."

Overweight at five-foot-six and 190 pounds, the 58-year-old Moretto carried his money in an alligator clip and was fiercely independent. He was known for always being the guy behind the wheel during outings. "Charlie, nobody picks up Charlie," Basha recalled. "He takes his car everywhere."

Born in Chelsea, Massachusetts, Moretto spent most of his life in or around Boston, near his cousin and good friend Billy Botelho. The father of seven children, Moretto was a lifelong entrepreneur. He owned two clubs in North Reading, Massachusetts -- Maverick and New York Disco -- before finally making his money from the sea. More than 20 years ago, Moretto started Fleet Yacht Charters of Boston, which charters luxury yachts on Boston Harbor for events and dinners. By November 1990, Moretto had met a new girlfriend, Basha, and had handed control of the yacht-chartering company to two of his children, Christine and Gary, both of whom declined to comment for this article.

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