crimesider

Ben Novack Jr. Murder: Wheelman pleads guilty in Miami hotel heir's death

Ben Novack Jr. (CBS)
Ben Novack Jr. (Personal Photo)
Ben Novack Jr.

(CBS/AP) WHITE PLAINS, N.Y.  - A man from New York City has admitted being the wheelman in the beating death of Florida millionaire Ben Novack Jr. at a suburban hotel in 2009.

The guilty plea from Denis Ramirez came as the prosecution appeared to be focusing its case on the millionaire's widow, Narcy Novack of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

She is accused of arranging the killing to get her husband's estate.

The victim, Ben Novack Jr., was found beaten to death in 2009 at the Hilton hotel in the New York City suburb of Rye Brook, where his company had organized an Amway convention. He was the son of the builder of the Fontainebleau hotel in Miami Beach, Fla.

Ramirez, 36, pleaded guilty Thursday to conspiracy and domestic violence charges at the federal courthouse in White Plains, the U.S. attorney's office said Friday.

Ramirez drove two Florida men to the Hilton in Rye Brook on July 12, 2009, for what Ramirez believed would be an assault and robbery, prosecutor Elliott Jacobson said in court.

Jacobson identified the men as Joel Gonzalez and Alejandro Garcia. Gonzalez was indicted last year with Ramirez, Narcy Novack and her brother, Cristobal Veliz. Garcia was not indicted and was identified in the indictment only as a co-conspirator, an indication he is cooperating with prosecutors. The U.S. attorney's office said Thursday's mention was believed to be the first time Garcia was identified by name.

Gonzalez may also be cooperating with the prosecution. He and his lawyer were absent from a court hearing last week, and no explanation was offered, which can happen after a cooperation agreement. Prosecutors are not obliged to disclose such a development.

Jacobson said Narcy Novack let Gonzalez and Garcia into the hotel suite she shared with her husband, where, he said, they beat Ben Novack with dumbbells and bound him with duct tape. Jacobson said Garcia cut Novack's eyes with a utility knife; prosecutors have said that was done on Narcy Novack's orders.

Afterward, Ramirez drove Gonzalez and Garcia from the hotel, Jacobson said.

Ramirez's attorney, Ismael Gonzalez, said he was unaware of any cooperation agreement for his client.

"As far as I know, this is the end of the case," Gonzalez said. "I can't comment on anything my client wants to do when this is over."

Under the law, Ramirez could be sentenced to life in prison, but federal guidelines point to a shorter sentence. Sentencing was scheduled for June 3.

Jacobson said last week that prosecutors will decide soon whether to file additional charges against Narcy Novack, 53. He did not specify any charges, but at a bail hearing in July he accused her of plotting the beating death of her elderly mother-in-law, Bernice Novack. She has not been charged in that case.

Narcy Novack has pleaded not guilty in her husband's killing.

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