An international fugitive who authorities say skipped out on a prison sentence in Portugal was finally tripped up this week by a formidable obstacle that rankles commuters here every day: the New Jersey Turnpike.
Manuel Albert Soares, convicted in Portugal of trying to hire hit men to kill his ex-wife, was pulled over April 11 in Elizabeth for driving in a carpool lane with fewer than the requisite three passengers
When officers checked his driver's license, they discovered an international warrant for his arrest.
Soares made his first appearance in a Newark federal courtroom Friday to be informed of the request for his extradition.
He's charged with attempted aggravated homicide in Portugal for trying to hire two hit men in 2006 to kill his ex-wife, Maria Teresa Franqueira Mourao, after Soares was fired from a business the couple jointly owned, according to court papers. The men he had tried to hire reached out to police and cooperated with authorities to continue negotiations with Soares on the hit, which was partially paid for but never carried out.
Soares was charged and went to trial, but a Portuguese criminal court acquitted him of the charges in September 2007 on legal grounds. Prosecutors appealed the decision, and Portugal's supreme court revoked the acquittal, sentencing Soares in October 2008 to four years and six months in prison.
An international arrest warrant was issued for him in March 20009. It wasn't immediately clear from court records how he managed to elude authorities in Portugal.
Soares' court-appointed attorney declined to comment, and Soares only spoke Friday to answer yes-or-no questions from U.S. Magistrate Judge Madeline Cox Arleo. He remains in custody in New Jersey with an extradition hearing scheduled for May 3.
The 55-year-old Soares, who has dual U.S. and Portuguese citizenship, was born in Newark, a northern New Jersey city that is home to a large Portuguese immigrant community.