Inmate who hired hitman enters plea

Inmate who hired hitman enters plea
By Rebecca Henely

A Rikers Island prisoner who killed one man and attempted to finish off two others at the scene in Woodside last year pleaded guilty Friday to trying to hire a hitman to murder the two witnesses so they could not testify against him, the Queens district attorney’s office said.

The DA said the man, 32-year-old former Woodside resident Gino Florencia, also pleaded guilty to his October 2009 crime.

“By ordering the death of two people that he had personally attempted to kill once before in order to prevent them from testifying against him, the defendant tried to silence the truth and thwart justice,” Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said in a statement. “Fortunately, the plot was discovered before he could carry out his plan.”

Florencia was being held in Rikers Island without bail for an incident that occurred Oct. 24, 2009, the DA said. Florencia shot and killed a man named Edison Vera in a courtyard at 45-55 48th St. in Woodside, then tried to kill two others, one of whom was shot in the arm and in the stomach, the DA said. Their names have not been revealed.

Sometime before Sept, 17, the district attorney’s office learned Florencia had been saying from inside his cell that he wanted to kill the two witnesses, the DA said. In response, the DA asked members of the Police Department’s Internal Affairs Bureau to set up a sting operation, Brown said. An undercover cop posed as a hitman and met in person and spoke on the telephone with Florencia numerous times from Sept. 17 to Oct. 3, the DA said.

In those conversations, Florencia agreed to pay the officer $2,000 to kill the witnesses: $1,000 before the job was done and $1,000 afterward, the DA said. Florencia also gave detailed information to the officer about the witnesses and showed the officer photographs of people resembling the witnesses and the places they tended to frequent, the DA said. Florencia also paid the officer $500 through a third party, the DA said.

Florencia pleaded guilty to manslaughter, assault and two counts of conspiracy to commit murder in Queens Supreme Court before Justice Gregory L. Lasak, the DA said.

Lasak indicated to the DA he plans to sentence Florencia to up to 53 years in prison on the charges, the DA said. Florencia’s sentencing date is Jan. 19, the DA said.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4564.