By Bill Pan
A former New York police officer who shared a jail cell with Jeffrey Epstein at the time of the notorious sex trafficker’s death has been convicted of murdering four men and burying them in his yard.
Nicholas Tartaglione, a 55-year-old retired police officer-turned-drug dealer, faces life imprisonment after a jury on Thursday found him guilty of the strangling death of one man and the execution-style killings of three others.
While awaiting his trial, Tartaglione attracted widespread media attention after he was identified as Epstein’s cellmate at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in lower Manhattan. A well-connected financier accused of operating a sex trafficking ring involving dozens of children, Epstein was found dead on the morning of Aug. 10, 2019, just a few days after prison officials removed him from suicide watch.
Bruce Barket, the attorney for Tartaglione, claimed at that time that his client and Epstein got along well and both complained about living conditions there. After sharing the cell with Epstein for some time, Tartaglione was transferred out and never returned, even when Epstein was placed on watch and then removed from the list.
In the case for which he was convicted, prosecutors said Tartaglione schemed the killings after suspecting that one of the victims, Martin Luna, had stolen more than $200,000 from him.
Having no idea what Tartaglione had planned, Martin showed up on April 11, 2016, to a meeting in a bar in Orange County, New York, accompanied by his two nephews—Miguel Luna and Urbano Santiago—as well as a family friend, Hector Gutierrez. In what prosecutors described as “pure terror,” Tartaglione tortured Martin and strangled him to death with a zip-tie while one of his nephews watched.
According to prosecutors, Tartaglione and two of his associates then took Martin’s nephews and friend to a “remote wooded location,” forcing them to their knees before killing them by shooting into the backs of their heads. Tartaglione then buried the bodies of his victims in a grave dug at a ranch he rented in Otisville, about 70 miles north of Manhattan, only for them to be recovered by the police about eight months later.
“We commend the career prosecutors and investigators for their relentless pursuit of justice in this case over the past seven years, and for ensuring that Nicholas Tartaglione faces a lifetime in federal prison for his unconscionable murder of four men,” said U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Damian Williams.
“Most of all, we thank the victims’ families for trusting law enforcement to find their loved ones and see that justice was done.”
Three associates of Tartaglione have testified against him at his murder trial, according to the Associated Press. A fourth associate, who was also a former police officer, had killed himself.
Meanwhile, Bruce Barket said his client is “deeply disappointed with the verdict” and intended to file an appeal asking a higher court to reverse the guilty verdict against him.
“Mr. Tartaglione won’t stop fighting until he gains his freedom,” he said in a statement. “This didn’t end here, it just moves to the next phase, the appellate courts.”