FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Jurors reached a verdict in the trial of a Coral Springs man accused of hiring a hit man to kill witnesses in his murder case.
The jury convicted Munwar Toha, 65, of four counts of solicitation to commit murder. He faces up to 30 years in prison.
Prosecutors say Toha wanted to kill four people who are going to testify against him when he stands trial for murdering his wife.
Toha reported his wife Surya missing in April of 2010 and made a tearful public plea for help to find her. Detectives later uncovered surveillance video which, they say, shows Toha driving his family car into a canal. His wife's body was discovered in the submerged vehicle.
In court Thursday, jurors heard audio recordings of Toha talking on the phone from the Broward County jail to an undercover detective who was posing at a hit man. According to the audio tapes, Toha said his fellow inmate, Fitzroy Salesman, was interested in the hit man's services. At the time, Salesman, the former Miramar City Commissioner, had just been convicted of federal bribery and extortion charges.
Toha told the detective that Salesman wanted the hit man to kill his federal prosecutor, assistant U.S. attorney Jeffery Kaplan.
The detective told jurors he was alarmed by the request and started looking into Salesman. He listened to Salesman's phone calls from jail but never heard the former commissioner discuss killing Kaplan with anyone else. The detective said he never talked to Salesman himself and could not make a criminal case based solely on his conversation with Toha.
It's unclear if Kaplan was made aware of the charges or if any precautions were taken to ensure his safety. Salesman is serving four years in federal prison.
Oscar Izquierdo, a police informant, introduced Toha to the undercover detectives. Defense attorneys argued that is entrapment and that Izquierdo set Toha up in exchange for a lighter prison sentence.
Toha must still stand trial for the murder of his wife. Prosecutors may offer him a plea deal on the murder charge.
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