CONVICTED WHITE COLLAR CRIMINAL PLEADS GUILTY IN MURDER-FOR-HIRE PLOT Aaron Hand Sought Retribution Against Witness While in Prison for Mortgage Fraud

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., today announced the guilty plea of AARON HAND, 40, to Conspiracy to Commit Murder in the First and Second Degrees for conspiring to murder a witness who testified against him at his 2010 trial, at which he was convicted of masterminding a $100 million mortgage fraud. HAND will be sentenced on February 6, 2012. This sentence will run consecutively with the 8 1/3-to-25 years that HAND is currently serving on his mortgage fraud conviction.

“The defendant’s actions strike at the heart of the justice system,” said District Attorney Vance. “Nothing is more important than the safety of witnesses, and my Office will do everything in its power to ensure their safety.”

In July 2010, Hand was convicted by a jury of heading up a $100 million mortgage fraud scheme through a corrupt loan origination company called AFG Financial Group, Inc. One month later, HAND was sent to the New York State Coxsackie Correctional Facility to serve his sentence.

As admitted during his guilty plea in court, in July 2011, HAND began attempting to arrange from prison the murder of one of the witnesses who testified against him at his trial (the “Witness”). Based on a tip that one of its investigators received in August 2011, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, working with the Inspector General’s Office of the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision and the New York City Police Department, began an investigation.

According to documents filed in court, on August 26, 2011, an undercover investigator from the District Attorney’s Office, posing as a “hit man,” met with HAND at the Coxsackie Correctional Facility. During a lengthy, recorded conversation, HAND provided the undercover investigator with details of where the Witness lived and outlined ways in which the investigator could carry out the hit. HAND also told the investigator that if the hit occurred at the Witness’s home, the Witness’s spouse and young children would likely also have to be killed so that law enforcement would be unable to link HAND to the hit.

HAND agreed to compensate the undercover investigator, both once the hit happened and also with an upfront payment to buy a firearm and other supplies for the crime. HAND later also provided the undercover investigator with the phone number of an associate whom the investigator could contact to get the money (the “Associate”).

In order to obtain the Associate’s assistance—and in order to obtain money from his unwitting parents to make the upfront payment—HAND concocted a story that he needed the cash to bribe a Correction Officer at the Coxsackie Facility. Ultimately, HAND’s parents provided $150 to the Associate, at HAND’S request, during a roadside exchange off the Long Island Expressway. Investigators from the District Attorney’s Office captured the exchange on surveillance video after learning of the planned hand-off through HAND’S prison calls and communications intercepted via a court-authorized wiretap of the Associate’s cell phone.

Just days after the hand-off, on September 10, 2011, the Associate met the undercover investigator outside a diner on the east side of Manhattan and gave him the $150 in cash that HAND’s parents had provided. After receiving the money from the Associate, the undercover investigator visited HAND a second time at the Coxsackie Correctional Facility on September 15, 2011. During that meeting, HAND again told the undercover investigator that he wanted the Witness murdered and agreed to pay the undercover investigator $2,000 for the hit. HAND and the undercover investigator agreed that the murder would occur within two weeks and that the plot was in motion.

Assistant District Attorneys Dana Irvis and Peirce R. Moser handled the prosecution of the case under the supervision of Assistant District Attorneys Christopher Conroy and Polly Greenberg, Deputy Chiefs of the Major Economic Crimes Bureau; Assistant District Attorney Richard Weber, Deputy Chief of the Investigation Division and Chief of the Major Economic Crimes Bureau; and Executive Assistant District Attorney Adam S. Kaufmann, Chief of the Investigation Division. ADAs Irvis and Moser were assisted in the investigation by Trial Preparation Assistants Anusha Pamula and Katherine Savarese, both of the Major Economic Crimes Bureau; Senior Investigator Gerald Bergold, Supervising Investigator Michael Wigdor and Undercover Investigator 102, all of the Investigation Bureau; Detective Michael Bazerman of the District Attorney’s NYPD Office Squad; Senior Investigator John Cavalcante and Deputy Inspector General Kenneth Torreggiani, both of the Inspector General’s Office of the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision; Detectives Scott Christie and Tricia Peterson, both of the New York City Police Department; and Senior Investigators Reginald Barometre, James Fenrich, and Thomas Lombardo, and Investigators Max Adler, Behzad Ahdout, Keith Christensen, Karen Kelly, David Lee, Faith Tuohy, and Matthew Winters, all of the Investigation Bureau.

Defendant Information:

AARON HAND, D.O.B. 12/25/1971
Coxsackie Correctional Facility, Coxsackie, New York

• Conspiracy in the Second Degree to commit the crimes of Murder in the First and Second Degrees, a class B felony, one count