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03/08/2010

Los Angeles-area man sentenced to more than 18 years for soliciting murder of ICE informant

LOS ANGELES - A Sherman Oaks, Calif., man was sentenced this morning to 217 months in federal prison Monday for his role in a bank fraud scheme and a related plot in which he attempted to hire a hit man to murder a witness who was prepared to testify against him in the fraud case.

Pavel Valkovich, 28, was sentenced by United States District Judge Percy Anderson, who told the defendant: "You're your own worst enemy."

Valkovich pleaded guilty in December 2009 to one count of solicitation to commit murder, admitting that he offered to pay $10,000 to have a hit man kill an informant working with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The informant provided ICE information which led to Valkovich pleading guilty earlier in 2009 to charges of bank fraud and identity theft. Valkovich admitted he wanted the hit man to use a silencer and kill the informant in a drive-by shooting. The charges are the result of an investigation by ICE, with substantial assistance provided by the United States Bureau of Prisons, Special Investigative Office.

In late 2008, ICE opened an investigation into Valkovich's involvement in a bank fraud scheme in which he and others stole personal identifying information and used the information to transfer funds from victims' bank accounts to PayPal accounts. During the execution of a search warrant at Valkovich's residence, Valkovich attempted to flee by jumping from the roof of his apartment complex onto another building. Valkovich was arrested on bank fraud charges at that time and has been in custody since December 2008.

Following his arraignment on the bank fraud charges, Valkovich approached another individual and proposed they kill the informant, whom Valkovich learned had provided the information leading 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 plot to kill the informant, he was charged for 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 approached regarding the original murder 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 his head cut off. Valkovich pleaded guilty in relation to the first murder-for-hire scheme.

Judge Anderson sentenced Valkovich to 37 months for his role in the bank fraud scheme and an additional 180 months for soliciting the murder of the informant. The sentences were ordered to be served consecutively. Judge Anderson said he would order Valkovich to pay restitution in the fraud case in an amount to be determined in the coming weeks.