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Former IRS agent pleads guilty to trying to hire hitman to kill four

August 10, 2012 |  4:38 pm

A 51-year-old tax preparer and former Internal Revenue Service agent pleaded guilty Friday to trying to hire a hitman to kill four witnesses against him in a criminal case involving stealing more than $11 million from clients.

Steven Martinez of Ramona pleaded guilty in San Diego federal court to 12 felony counts involving various schemes to steal from clients, including mail fraud, filing false tax returns, Social Security fraud, identity theft and money laundering.

The four people that Martinez wanted killed were former clients, according to prosecutors. Martinez told the would-be hitman that he would pay him $100,000 "if he eliminated the lady in Rancho Santa Fe and the lady in La Jolla," according to court documents.

Martinez said two guns and a silencer should be used, according to prosecutors. The would-be killer  reported the offer to police; the FBI recorded and videotaped his next meeting with Martinez.

Martinez used client money to buy real estate, including a beach home in Mexico, make $2 million in investments and make more than $2 million in payments on loans and credit cards.

Sentencing is set for Nov. 30. Among other charges to which he pleaded guilty, witness tampering can bring a sentence of 30 years in prison, murder-for-hire 10 years, solicitation of violence 15 years and mail fraud 20 years.

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--Tony Perry in San Diego

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