A retired police officer turned drug dealer is accused of killing four men in a “gangland-style” quadruple murder in a New York bar as part of a conspiracy to sell more than five kilograms of cocaine, federal authorities say.
Nicholas Tartaglione, 49, has been charged in federal court with the murders of Martin Luna, Urbano Santiago, Miguel Luna and Hector Gutierrez, who were last seen in Chester, New York, in April.
Tartaglione, a former officer in Briarcliff Manor, was arrested Monday on murder charges, and also for his role in a conspiracy to distribute cocaine, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara said in a press release.
“While all murders tear at the fabric of our communities, when the alleged perpetrator of a gangland-style, quadruple homicide is a former police officer, that strikes at the heart of civilized society,” Bharara said in a statement. “As alleged, Nicholas Tartaglione, a former Briarcliff Manor police officer, participated in the senseless murder of four people in a bar in Chester, New York.
“These four men had not been seen or heard from since the day of their alleged murder. We hope that today’s arrest brings some measure of comfort to the victims’ families and loved ones,” Bharara said.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Tartaglione Killed the Men at a Family Member’s Bar as Part of a Cocaine Conspiracy & Hid the Bodies at His Home, Police Say
The bar is owned by Michael Tartaglione, who is related to Nick Tartaglione, according to Facebook pages associated with Michael and other family members.
Few details about the murders were included in the indictment against Tartaglione. You can read the indictment below:
Prosecutors say Tartaglione and others, who are not named, were involved in a conspiracy to sell five kilograms or more of cocaine from June 2015 to April 2016. Prosecutors say the murders were in “furtherance” of that conspiracy.
Police found the bodies of the four men at a home in Otisville, which is in Orange County, New York, where Tartaglione previously lived with his girlfriend, the New York Daily News reports.
A source told the Daily News that Tartaglione bought the property, called the Eleazer Harding Farm, about a year ago for more than $500,000. The source told the newspaper Tartaglione and his girlfriend moved out suddenly about two months ago.
“Basically, he was here and all of a sudden he was gone,” the source told the Daily News. “Now this is going on and it all makes sense.”
The source told the Daily News he noticed something odd a few months ago.
“It really smelled of death, but then it disappeared after a couple of days,” the source said.
2. Two of the Victims Were in the ‘Wrong Place at the Wrong Time,’ Prosecutors Say
Police in Chester had been searching for the four men – Martin Luna, 41; Urbano Santiago, 32; Miguel Luna, 25; and Hector Gutierrez, 43 – after they went missing in April. They were all from Orange County, New York.
According to prosecutors, at least two of the men were in the “wrong place at the wrong time,” when they were killed.
“I am grateful for the hard work everyone put into this case and the cooperation of the agencies involved. This unspeakable crime shows how destructive the drug trade is and why we must all endeavor to continue the fight,” Chester Police Chief Peter Graziano Jr. said in a statement. “This scourge is not limited to large urban areas, but small rural ones as well. I hope the victims’ families can find some peace and closure as a result of this arrest.”
3. Tartaglione Retired From the Police Department in 2008 on Disability After a Career Marked With Scandals
Tartaglione’s career with the Briarcliff Manor Police Department was filled with controversies. He eventually retired in 2008 on disability and receives an annual tax-free pension of $64,000, The Journal News reports.
He began his career with the Mount Vernon and Pawling police departments, before moving to Briarcliff Manor in 1996, according to The Journal News.
Tartaglione was arrested in 1999 on charges he perjured himself by lying during a hearing about a drunken driving arrest he had made, The Journal News reports. He was acquitted of the charge, but was fired for violating department policy. He later successfully sued to get his job back in 2003, plus back pay, according to the newspaper.
Tartaglione was a K-9 officer during his career, working with a dog named Angus. His parents run a dog rescue in Nyack, New York, and he has also worked with them in the past.
4. He Was Accused of Beating & Harassing a Local Cable TV Host During His Time as a Cop
Tiffany accused Tartaglione of wrongdoing on several occasions, including claims he had been harassed and beaten by him.
Briarcliff Manor eventually settled a lawsuit with Tiffany, who died last year, for more than $1 million, according to The Journal News.
5. Tartaglione Faces the Death Penalty if Convicted of the Murder Charges
Tartaglione appeared in federal court in White Plains, New York, on Monday for the first time. He is being held in custody, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a press release.
The judge ordered that Tartaglione be given suboxone to help him deal with his prescription painkiller addiction while in jail, the New York Daily News reports.
If convicted, the former officer faces a minimum of 20 years in prison on each of the murder charges, and could face up to life or the death penalty, prosecutors said.
He also faces between 10 years to life in prison on the drug charge.
“The despicable acts of murder are more egregious in this case because the alleged murderer, a former police officer, once swore to serve and protect people from harm,” FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. said in a statement. “The FBI Hudson Valley Safe Streets Task Force works day after day to battle the crimes that accompany the drug trade to keep criminals and their illegal actions from impacting innocent people. We hope the victims’ families and community find some solace in an arrest being made.”
New York State Police Superintendent George P. Beach II, said in a statement, “Once again the work of a strong law enforcement partnership has resulted in an alleged dangerous man being taken off the streets. These brutal murders are prime examples of the dangerous crimes that are associated with drug distribution. Narcotics destroy communities and put lives at risk. State Police and our partners will continue to work together to rid our communities of these dangerous substances, and the violence that comes with them.”