March 8, 2018 at 6:00 AM
Joel Rosquette despised the tenant across the hall. The neighbors were always throwing parties in the small apartment in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan. The man, a teenager, and his friends would stay up until the early morning hours causing a racket. Rosquette, who goes by “Ricky,” was also convinced he was dealing drugs.
Other tenants had tried to get the noisy neighbors evicted, but the superintendent wouldn’t allow it. Rosquette was convinced that the superintendent once had an “affair” with a woman who lived in that apartment and turned a blind eye to the parties, the complaint said.
Fed up, Rosquette came up with a solution. He would have the superintendent “taken care of,” according to a federal criminal complaint. If the super were killed, then the parties would have to stop. He asked a guy he knew for a referral for someone who did “that kind of work,” according to the complaint.
The acquaintance set him up with a hit man who could get the job done for $10,000, with a $1,000 down payment.
“Let me tell you something, Rick,” the acquaintance told him in June. “Once I get the ball rolling … there’s no coming back. … You want me to kill this guy, you sure?”
“110% yes,” Rosquette responded, according to the complaint. So it was settled.
But his acquaintance had other plans. He was a confidential informant for the FBI. And the hit man was an undercover federal agent.
On Tuesday, federal officials arrested Rosquette and charged him with murder-for-hire. If convicted, he could face up to 30 years in prison.
The alleged murder scheme that initially targeted a Washington Heights superintendent would eventually expand to three targets and would drain every last cent from Rosquette’s bank account.
“In the end, he was fooled by the merits of his own plan,” FBI Assistant Director William F. Sweeney Jr. said in a statement.
Conversations and exchanges recorded by the confidential informant and undercover agent, detailed in a federal complaint, provide a window into Rosquette’s alleged scheme.
The plot picked up steam in February, when Rosquette told his middle man — the confidential informant — that he had a change of plans. Instead of killing the superintendent, Rosquette wanted to kill the noisy neighbors themselves, according to the complaint.
“Rage is rage,” Rosquette said to his middle man over the phone on Feb. 22. “When you have rage, you do things. … Rage in the heart. When you have that, it’s personal.”
But there was one problem: Rosquette was broke. He had just lost his job as a New York City tour bus driver, and it was unlikely he would be able to come up with the money to pay for the murders of two people.
So Rosquette would order the “hit man” to kill another guy he knew, who ran a gas station in Staten Island, break into his safe and steal the cash, the complaint said.
He told the hit man to wrap the gas pumps with yellow “caution” tape make them look out-of-order to deter customers.
On March 1, Rosquette gave the hit man the name of the gas station employee. The hit man, who was actually the undercover FBI agent, sent Rosquette a photo of the employee he found on social media.
“Bingo!!!!!!!! OUTSTANDING,” Rosquette responded, according to the federal complaint.
“I know where he is, I know where to find him,” the undercover agent told Rosquette. “Next time you hear from me is to tell you it’s done.”
On March 6, the agent called Rosquette, telling him the task was complete. He had killed the gas station operator, left the man’s body in the gas station, and disguised the scene as if it were a robbery, he told Rosquette.
The agent then drove Rosquette to a bank in Manhattan, where Rosquette withdrew what remained in his bank account: $75. He gave all of it to the agent, in return for the crime he supposedly completed, the complaint said.
The agent told Rosquette he had stolen about $12,000 from the gas station. It would be plenty to pay for the murders of the neighbors if Rosquette still wanted to move forward with the scheme.
Rosquette agreed, the complaint said. He told the “hit man” where the neighbors lived, and ordered the killing to take place the following week, according to the complaint.
The FBI arrested him after he left the meeting. He has yet to file a plea.
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