California fraud defendant charged with plotting to kill witnesses

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 18, 2014 12:43 AM

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A California man awaiting trial for insurance fraud and other charges was indicted for plotting with other inmates to kill nine witnesses set to testify against him, prosecutors said on Friday.

Charles Waldo was indicted by a grand jury with nine counts of solicitation to commit murder and one count of conspiracy to commit murder on Wednesday, Contra Costa County District Attorney Mark Peterson said in a statement. Those counts are in addition to 50 other charges already filed against Waldo.

The alleged crimes were revealed when one of the witnesses learned that a "hit" had been put out on him while Waldo was incarcerated at the Martinez Detention Facility, some 35 miles (56 km) northeast of San Francisco, Peterson said.

Authorities later discovered a document that listed the names of the witnesses, the order in which they should be killed, and suggestions as to the methods, including staged car accidents, drug overdoses and robberies "gone bad."

Waldo's attorney, Howard Williams, told the ABC7 television network that his client had no reason to plot the murders, and that he was a routinely misunderstood businessman.

"He's sort of a Steve Jobs-like figure," Williams said, according to ABC7. "In the process, like Steve Jobs, he didn't make a lot of friends, necessarily."

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Waldo had been jailed after prosecutors investigated him over an allegedly fraudulent auto insurance claim, which led to other charges including brandishing a firearm, violating a restraining order and felony vandalism, Peterson said.

If convicted, Waldo could face a maximum sentence of 25 years to life in prison, Peterson said.

(Reporting by Curtis Skinner; Editing by Robert Birsel)