New York, United States (Sputnik) – Four bodies were discovered on the New York property of retired Briarcliff Manor police officer Nicholas Tartaglione, and are believed to be men who went missing in April.
Tartaglione, 49, was arrested and indicted on drug conspiracy charges on Monday, and accusations that he killed the four men. The following day, law enforcement descended onto a property that he was renting in Orange County to conduct a search, and discovered the victims’ bodies.
The former officer is accused of killing Martin Luna, Urbano Santiago, Miguel Luna, and Hector Gutierrez, execution-style in a local bar owned by his brother. The murders are alleged to have been part of a cocaine deal gone wrong, though prosecutors believe that some of the men were not involved in the drug sale, but merely in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Tartaglione had been interviewed by federal agents just weeks before.
“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,” US Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement.
In 1999, Tartaglione was charged with official misconduct and perjury after testifying in a friend’s license-revocation case. The friend was acquitted, but fired from his job as a police officer.
Four years later, Tartaglione sued for wrongful termination and won $300,000 in back pay, plus his job back.
Tartaglione was also accused of beating and harassing television host Clay Tiffany on multiple occasions. Tiffany passed away last year, but had settled a federal lawsuit against the Briarcliff Village and the former officer for an excess of $1.1 million.
In 2008, Tartaglione retired from the force on disability and was receiving an annual tax-free pension of $65,000 a year. He was reportedly planning to give up the pension however, and had applied for a job with the Mount Vernon Police Department earlier this year.
Prosecutors believe that Tartaglione had been conspiring to sell cocaine between June 2015 and April 2016.
Tartaglione remains in custody, and is charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess, with intent to distribute 5 kilograms or more of cocaine, and four counts of murder, in furtherance of a conspiracy to distribute 5 kilograms or more of cocaine, USA Today reports.
“These four men had not been seen or heard from since the day of their alleged murder,” Bharara said. “We hope that today’s arrest brings some measure of comfort to the victims’ families and loved ones.”
If convicted, Tartaglione faces a minimum of 10 years and a maximum of life in prison on the drug conspiracy charge, as well as a minimum of 20 years and the possibility of the death penalty or life in prison for each charge of murder in furtherance of the drug conspiracy. Federal prosecutors have not yet announced if they will seek the death penalty.
“He took an oath. He was a police officer,” Chester police Chief Peter Graziano told USA Today. “This is incomprehensible… What happened that made him turn to this kind of activity I don’t know.”