Paul Luskin, operator of a chain of electronics stores in Florida, has been indicted by a federal grand jury in Baltimore with three other men in connection with an alleged scheme to murder the businessman's wife during a bitter, three-year divorce dispute.
According to the indictment issued Thursday and unsealed yesterday, Luskin, 39, hired brothers James and Joseph Liberto who, in turn, employed Milton (Sonny) Cohen of Baltimore to carry out the murder of Marie Luskin. James Liberto manages Palughi's Restaurant in East Baltimore.
The indictment describes numerous trips by Cohen and James Liberto from Maryland to Florida in connection with the murder plot, and alleges that Cohen attempted to murder Marie Luskin on March 9. In the alleged attempt, she received a severe head injury, according to a spokesman for the Treasury Department's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
Luskin and James Liberto are being held without bail pending a second bond hearing next week. At a magistrate's hearing yesterday, bail was set at $2 million for Luskin and $500,000 for James Liberto, but the government appealed the decision, and the men were incarcerated. Joseph Liberto is being held at a halfway house.
Alvin Entin, Luskin's lawyer in Miami, issued a statement yesterday declaring his client "innocent of all the charges."
Paul Luskin is the nephew of of Jack Luskin, head of the publicly owned and unrelated Luskin's Inc. store chain in Maryland. Jack Luskin said yesterday that he had only limited business contacts with his Florida relatives in the last 15 years. He said he bought out his brother, Paul's father, in 1966.
Marie Luskin filed for divorce in 1985, accusing her husband of abandoning her and their children after an extramarital affair, the Associated Press reported. She had sought child custody and support, alimony and a substantial amount of what she said was her husband's assets of more than $3 million. She also alleged her husband had conspired with his parents to hide his assets and income, the Miami News reported.
Paul Luskin also sought custody of the children and alleged it was his wife who was having an affair. A Broward County, Fla., judge has awarded Marie Luskin $8,000 a month in child support. Paul Luskin has been held in contempt of court six times for failing to disclose his finances, the Miami News said.
Luskin was jailed twice in connection with the divorce, and was last released in May by a Florida judge seeking to reduce the jail population.
The Luskins were married in 1971 in Miami Beach and have two children. Their divorce dispute, both sides agreed, had forced the Hollywood, Fla.-based business into reorganization under Chapter 11 of the U.S. bankruptcy laws in April. Seven of the chain's 13 Luskin's Hi-Fi outlets had been closed.
Luskin, of Hollywood and Monroeville, Pa., turned himself in Thursday at the Baltimore federal courthouse. Joseph S. Liberto, 46, of Coral Gables, Fla., James' brother and Paul Luskin's employe, also surrendered Thursday in Baltimore. James Liberto, 48, of Middle River in Baltimore County, was arrested yesterday at Palughi's restaurant.
Cohen, 43, of Baltimore, was arrested July 30 on a related charge and is incarcerated at Baltimore city jail, FBI agent Jim Dearborn said.
All men were charged under the federal racketeering law with conspiracy and use of interstate commerce facilities in the commission of murder-for-hire, and with carrying a firearm in connection with a crime of violence.
Cohen and James Liberto face additional charges of possession of firearms by a convicted felon. Liberto had a prior conviction for grand larceny and Cohen had convictions for bank robbery, narcotics violation and assault, said an ATF spokesman.
James Liberto also is charged in the indictment with having made a false statement in the purchase of a firearm. The indictment describes three firearms allegedly purchased for the slaying as a .223-calibre Colt AR-15 rifle, a .25-caliber Baretta pistol and a .22-caliber Sturm-Ruger pistol.