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Financial Crimes
12/09/2009

Calif. man admits soliciting murder of informant in ICE bank fraud investigation

LOS ANGELES - A Sherman Oaks, Calif., man has pleaded guilty to solicitation of murder, admitting he was willing to pay $10,000 to have a hitman kill an informant who was working with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents investigating a bank fraud scheme.

Pavel Valkovich, 28, pleaded guilty late Monday, which was the first day of his trial in U.S. District Court. Valkovich pleaded guilty to one count of solicitation to commit murder, a charge that could bring him a sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison. Valkovich admitted he wanted the hitman to use a silencer and kill the informant in a drive-by shooting.

Earlier this year, Valkovich pleaded guilty to one count of bank fraud, a charge stemming from the 2008 ICE investigation involving the informant Valkovich wanted killed. That investigation focused on Valkovich's involvement in a bank fraud scheme in which he and others stole personal identifying information from people and used the information to transfer funds from victims' bank accounts to PayPal accounts. After Valkovich attempted to transfer $440,000 from one victim's bank account late last year, ICE agents executed a search warrant at his home. During the enforcement action, Valkovich attempted to flee by jumping from the roof of his apartment complex onto another building. He was arrested on bank fraud charges at that time and has been in custody for nearly a year.

Following his arraignment on the bank fraud charges, Valkovich approached an individual and proposed they kill the informant, who Valkovich learned had provided the information that led to his arrest. Valkovich said all that was needed was a "pic and ten" - a picture of the informant and $10,000 - to have the informant killed. Valkovich also discussed coaching a witness to lie at his upcoming trial by claiming that the informant provided the witness with drugs, made improper sexual advances and planted evidence.

When authorities learned of Valkovich's murder-for-hire scheme, he was charged with that offense and transferred to a jail facility in San Bernardino County. Once there, Valkovich approached another individual and asked him to kill both the original informant and the individual Valkovich had first approached regarding the first murder-for-hire scheme. Valkovich promised this man $40,000 in exchange for killing both men and provided information on the planned victims' appearance, residences, and cars. Valkovich directed that one victim be shot and have his head cut off.

Valkovich pleaded guilty to the charges stemming from the first murder-for-hire scheme. He is scheduled to be sentenced by United States District Judge Percy Anderson on February 22, where he faces a statutory maximum sentence of 50 years in federal prison - 20 years for the murder solicitation plot and another potential 30 years in the bank fraud case.

The murder-for-hire cases against Valkovich were investigated by ICE, with assistance from the United States Bureau of Prisons, Special Investigative Office.