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United States v. Vasco

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

September 20, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
GUILLERMO FREDERICO VASCO, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          George A. O'Toole, Jr. United States District Judge.

         The 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. § 2255.

         I. Factual Background [1]

         In late 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 summarized:

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 thousand dollars....
(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.

         Agent 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.

         After 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.

         Vasco 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.

         II.Procedural ...


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