Florida prosecutors believe a video allegedly showing a jailhouse murder plot -- and a staged photo of the intended victim -- will be enough to convict a man accused of trying to arrange the slaying of his ex-wife.
Opening statements begin today in the trial of Kenneth Pollak, a former financial consultant accused of soliciting the murder of his ex-wife. Florida prosecutors say that Pollak tried to arrange the slayings of his ex-wife, Noemi Lugo-Pollak, and his 17- and 22-year-old daughters if they tried to interfere with the killing.
Pollak was arrested after police had Lugo-Pollak stage her own death and tricked her ex-husband into believing the alleged murder-for-hire had been carried out.
"It was shocking to us," Sgt. Jennell Atlas, spokeswoman for the Martin County Sheriff's Department, said of the possibility that Pollak's daughters were included in the plot. "You hear about this once in a while but this was different."
If convicted of solicitation to commit murder, Pollak faces up to 30 years in prison.
The Plan Within a Plan
Investigators say they first received a tip on the alleged murder plot in May from inmate John Alsup, who claimed he had had several conversations with Pollak when he was in jail for failure to pay child support and alimony. Pollak owed $60,000 in child support payments and according to Alsup, wanted help in hiring a hitman to kill Lugo-Pollak.
Pollak was released from prison but maintained contact with Alsup, who recorded their conversations. Based on Alsup's information, investigators launched a plan of their own. They began taping conversations between Alsup and Pollak. In one conversation, Alsup apparently refers to the alleged hitman saying, "I told him you and I have talked and you might want to meet him."
"Not necessary," Pollak replies.
Police also contacted Noemi Lugo-Pollak and had her take photos of herself slumped over a table in a pool of blood as proof that the plot had been carried out. Police then mailed the photos to Pollak. After reviewing the photos, Pollak left an envelope with $1,000 in alleged payment for the hitman, and police immediately arrested him.
Pollak's defense denies the murder-for-hire plot and says Alsup – who was facing life in prison for bank robbery charges -- would do anything to reduce his prison sentence. In a jailhouse telephone interview, Pollak told "Good Morning America" that his conversations with Alsup were taken out of context.
"Did he and I have several conversations? Absolutely," Pollak said. "Did I hire him to kill my ex-wife? Absolutely not."
A Jury Will Decide
Pollak did not have an explanation for the $1,000 he allegedly left for the hitman, saying "The explanation for that is something I'm going to reserve for a jury."
Florida investigators say they have built a strong case around the videotapes and recorded conversations between Pollak and Alsup.
"When we found her [Noemi Lugo-Pollak's] picture that we had staged of her death -- when we found it underneath his pillow that he was sleeping on every night -- that was kind of telling," Atlas said.
Lugo-Pollak told "Good Morning America" that she believes that a jury will not be sympathetic to her ex-husband and will convict him of the charges he faces.
"The fact is that he has allegedly attempted murder," she said. "He is not going to get any sympathy from anyone once this goes to court and when he is convicted."
Pollak, however, has maintained his innocence and said, "I hope that it [the solicitation for murder case] does not ruin her chances at happiness for her or the kids."