A detective investigating the killing of a Florida millionaire gave $5,000 to a woman expected to be a key prosecution witness after she expressed fear for her safety, a court document reveals.
The unusual payment _ to the daughter of the suspect _ comes in a case already brimming with family intrigue.
The witness, May Abad, is the stepdaughter of the victim, Ben Novack Jr., and the daughter of the principal suspect, Narcy Novack of Fort Lauderdale. Abad is expected to testify against her mother, who is accused of orchestrating not just her husband's killing, but her mother-in-law's as well.
Narcy Novack's brother, Cristobal Veliz, is a co-defendant. Both have pleaded not guilty. They face mandatory life in prison if convicted of murder in aid of racketeering.
Ben Novack, son of the man who built the Fontainebleau hotel in Miami Beach, was beaten to death in 2009 in Rye Brook, N.Y., where his travel company had organized an Amway convention. His 86-year-old mother had been killed in her Fort Lauderdale home three months earlier.
The $5,000 transaction was disclosed in a prosecutor's letter to the judge, filed Tuesday. The prosecutor, Elliott Jacobson, said Abad feared for her safety and asked the government for money to help her relocate.
He said an informant had reported that family members tried to assault Abad and tried to frame her by planting guns and drugs in her truck.
Before the government could obtain funds to help Abad move, Westchester County police Detective Alison Carpentier, "who was very much concerned about Abad's security," gave Abad $5,000 of her own money, the prosecutor said.
He did not say whether the detective was paid back, by the government or by Abad.
Narcy Novack's attorney, Howard Tanner, said Wednesday that the letter was the first he'd heard of the $5,000 transaction. He said he has asked Jacobson for more information "about that unusual move by Detective Carpentier, in particular when did he become aware of it."
Tanner said even if it was true that Abad felt threatened, "There are appropriate ways for witnesses generally to obtain assistance, especially in a high-profile case like this, other than having a detective involved in the case give money from her own personal funds to a potential witness to a homicide."
He would not discuss whether the payment would be used to challenge the detective's credibility. Carpentier is among the investigators who interviewed Narcy Novack after her husband's killing.
Carpentier has retired from the county police and now works for the Yonkers inspector general's office. A city spokeswoman said Carpentier refused to comment because the case is pending.
Novack's trial is scheduled to start next month. Jacobson's letter says that if the defense cross-examines Abad or Carpentier about the $5,000, he should be allowed to mention Abad's security concerns.
Jacobson also wrote that before Narcy Novack was arrested, Abad filed a lawsuit to block her from inheriting Ben Novack's $10 million estate. She sued because she suspected her mother's involvement in the killing and knew that she had failed a lie detector test, the prosecutor said.
He told the judge that if defense lawyers try to suggest that the lawsuit shows Abad was involved in the killing, the prosecution should be allowed to mention the polygraph.
Jacobson also asked the judge not to admit as evidence pictures of nude female amputees that were found on Ben Novack's computer.
Although the prosecution plans to say _ as evidence of motive _ that Narcy Novack told police her husband had a fetish, "whether he in fact had such a fetish is not an appropriate issue for the jury to consider," Jacobson wrote.
The defense has until March 23 to respond.