United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
OPINION AND ORDER
A. O'Toole, Jr. United States District Judge.
petitioner, Guillermo Vasco, was convicted by a jury of five
counts of using interstate commerce facilities in the
commission of murder-for-hire of his wife and daughter.
See 18 U.S.C. § 1958. He has moved to vacate
his conviction and sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
Factual Background 
2004, Vasco was in custody awaiting a state court trial for
allegedly assaulting and raping his estranged wife, Tricia
Vasco, in the presence of their young daughter, Claudia.
Vasco solicited Kevin Perry, a fellow inmate, to help him
find someone to kill Tricia. Vasco did not know that Perry
had been cooperating with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco,
Firearms, and Explosives (“ATF”) in various
investigations. Perry contacted the ATF in March 2005 to
report Vasco's solicitation, and the ATF initiated an
undercover investigation using Perry. The Court of Appeals
Pursuant to the investigative plan, Perry was to give Vasco
specific instructions for contacting Perry's friend
“Mike, ” a hit man who was in reality ATF Special
Agent Kenneth Croke. Vasco would write a letter to Mike,
communicating the details of his request. Mike's address
was a post office box in Portland, Maine.
Perry shared the instructions for contacting Mike with Vasco.
Perry also made handwritten notes, based on his conversations
with Vasco, containing detailed information about Tricia,
including maps of the house where she lived. In these
handwritten notes, under the heading “Questions,
” appears a reference to Claudia: “Can Claudia be
saved, brought to Germany or other? (important) * (thru
Canada).” The notes also disclosed that Vasco had
established a code to use in discussing the murder. Tricia
would be referred to as a dog named “Nickie, ”
Claudia as Nickie's puppy “Candy, ” and the
method of disappearance as “bring[ing] to vet.”
Perry mailed these notes to the ATF.
Several days later, Vasco wrote to Mike at the Portland post
office box. In the letter, Vasco wrote:
I've heard that our friends and their doggy Nickie will
take a trip down there, Ah? That would be great if you could
help them. But Nickie is very old and sick. She won't
survive such trip ... the only thing would be to put Nickie
to sleep ... I know ... Sad but true.... She was soo loyal
and obidient. Anyways if so can she be buried outside of
Mass. ... ? Making sure that Nickie will be 10 feet down and
do not forget the cement thing. Also I'd like to know if
Candy would be able to see the family if not she must stay
with Nickie down there.... I wish there is a better choice.
Will be much more Nickie's ... I promes ya ... ok? In the
other hand I'll send a the money collection that I
mentioned. Remember that it's value more than five
(Errors in original.) The letter was in Vasco's
handwriting but bore as a return address Perry's name and
inmate number at [the facility].
Vasco, 564 F.3d at 16.
Croke retrieved the letter. Posing as Mike, Croke arranged to
meet with Vasco. During that meeting, Vasco read aloud the
letter and answered clarifying questions regarding the
identity of “Nickie” and “the puppy.”
He and Croke discussed details about the kidnapping, the
disposal of the bodies, and details of how Vasco would pay
Mike for his services.
the meeting, Vasco and Croke had three telephone
conversations in calls initially placed by Perry. In one of
the calls, they discussed whether Vasco was getting
“cold feet.” Croke told Vasco that if “he
did not want to go forward, that was ‘fine by me . . .
I haven't put any time or money into it. . . . [I]f, you
know, you don't want to do it, it's, it's
fine.'” Id. at 17. Vasco responded that he
did want to proceed: “[Y]ou just go ahead, oh,
absolutely go ahead and green light. . . . I need the stuff
done.” Id. Vasco subsequently made a partial
payment to Croke.
was charged with five counts of use of interstate commerce
facilities in the commission of murder-for-hire in violation
of § 1958. The first and fifth counts were based on the
letter Vasco mailed to Mike in April. The second, third, and
fourth counts were based on his three telephone conversations
with Croke, posing as Mike.