WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – A man accused of helping his sister arrange the killing of her hotel heir husband tried in testimony Thursday to switch the blame to her daughter.
Defendant Cristobal Veliz testified that he heard the daughter, May Abad, threaten to cut off her father's testicles several days before he was beaten to death. He also said he saw her twice with men who have confessed to carrying out the killing.
Abad hasn't been charged. A call to her lawyer wasn't immediately returned.
Veliz, who has homes in Brooklyn and Philadelphia, and Narcy Novack, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., are charged with murder in the 2009 killings of Ben Novack in New York and Bernice Novack in Florida.
Ben Novack was the son of the man who built the Fontainebleau hotel in Miami Beach.
Veliz was the first defense witness in the nearly 6-week-old federal trial. His sister is expected to testify next week.
Defense attorneys suggested in their opening statements that Abad, Narcy Novack's daughter from a previous marriage and Ben Novack's stepdaughter, was responsible for the killings. They said she had a motive for the killings and for framing her mother because if her mother is convicted, the multimillion-dollar family estate, including one of the world's largest collections of Batman memorabilia, would go to Abad and her two sons.
The prosecution theory is that Narcy Novack paid her brother to recruit the killers of her husband and mother-in-law, clearing the path for her to inherit.
The men who admit beating Ben Novack to death, Alejandro Garcia and Joel Gonzalez, have already testified that they were recruited and paid by Veliz.
Veliz testified that his relationship with Ben Novack was "the best."
Speaking in Spanish, Veliz alluded vaguely to trouble between Abad and her stepfather when he testified that he received a troubling call from her in 1991, when she was 15 or 16, that prompted him to travel to Florida and speak with Ben Novack.
Judge Kenneth Karas wouldn't allow Veliz to testify about what Abad said.
Veliz then said that in July 2009, within two weeks of Ben Novack's killing, he saw Abad at a Miami barbecue where "she was almost out of control."
He told his lawyer, Lawrence Sheehan, that he heard Abad say she was going to do something to her stepfather.
"Did she say she was going to cut his testicles?" asked Veliz's attorney, Lawrence Sheehan.
"Yes," Veliz said.
Later that day, he said, Abad asked him to drive two men, including Garcia, "to a convention in New York." He said he refused.
Ben Novack was killed during an Amway convention his travel company was running at a hotel in Rye Brook.
He said he next saw Abad on July 10, two days before the killing, in the company of both Garcia and Gonzalez in New York.
And on Aug. 16, he said, he saw Garcia again in Miami, looking for Abad.
"I found out they had done something wrong," Veliz said, prompting prosecutor Elliott Jacobson to object and the judge to strike the remark.
Veliz is set to continue testifying on Monday. Narcy Novack is also expected to take the stand.
If convicted of murder in aid of racketeering, the defendants would face a mandatory life sentence.