An Imperfect Murder

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

Dressed in a baggy, orange, county-issued jump suit, Luis Martinez sits behind a glass wall in the visiting room of the Broward Sheriff's Office Main Jail on the New River on a steamy July afternoon.

Martinez will have a difficult time convincing a jury of his innocence. In addition to evidence collected prior to his arrest, detectives found, while searching his Jaguar, two stolen checks written out for $1 million each. That corroborated the story police heard about Martinez's claiming to have $10 million to invest.

Thom Zahler
Luis Martinez had two jobs: con man and ATF informant.
Luis Martinez had two jobs: con man and ATF informant.

Martinez leans into the glass, the phone cradled in his right hand. "I didn't kill Moretto," he says. "I'm no angel, but I'm not a killer. That's not my style. They say that I killed him for a watch and the Bentley. Why would I do that? Why kill a man for something that I could just convince him to give me? That's my style. That's how I do things.

"I'm the perfect suspect," Martinez continues. "They didn't look for anyone else. They just looked at me and said, 'Let's blame Martinez,' because I've got a record. They don't have a single eyewitness. They don't have anyone who can link me to the murder. Nothing."

Martinez's murder trial should begin later this year. The state is seeking the death penalty. Among the likely witnesses is Zayas. Martinez claims that the ATF agent can exonerate him but hasn't come forward for fear of compromising pending federal investigations. Moretto had enemies, people who wanted him dead, Martinez claims. He says he's merely the fall guy. But unlike in 2002, when Martinez set up a fellow inmate in a murder-for-hire plot, the federal government doesn't appear willing to do him any favors.

"I have no love for the ATF right now," Martinez says. "I have no love for Richie Zayas."

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