WHITE PLAINS— “No.”
Over and over, dozens and dozens of times, that was the answer given today by defendant Cristobal Veliz as he denied any involvement in the 2009 deaths of his brother-in-law, Florida millionaire Ben Novack Jr., and Novack’s mother, Bernice Novack.
Veliz denied the things the killers’ claimed he said and did over several months in 2009, insisting he did not recruit them or finance them and certainly had not accompanied them to the Hilton Rye Town, where Novack was brutally killed on July 12, 2009.
He didn’t even know where the hotel was, he told his lawyer, Lawrence Sheehan, as the seventh week of his trial began in U.S. District Court. Veliz, 58, and his sister, Novack’s wife, Narcy, 55, are charged with racketeering and other crimes for allegedly orchestrating both Ben Novack’s murder and his mother’s, who was bludgeoned to death in her Fort Lauderdale home April 4, 2009.
Veliz began his testimony on Thursday and implicated his niece, May Abad – Narcy Novack’s daughter and Ben Novack’s stepdaughter – saying he saw her with the killers in the days leading up to the Rye Brook hotel attack.
This afternoon Veliz is expected to testify that he was kidnapped in September 2009, and held in a basement for more than two weeks, and that Abad was behind the kidnapping.
But U.S. District Judge Kenneth Karas ruled Veliz would not be able to testify as to any conversation he might have had with Abad while he was allegedly being held, particularly his claim that she confessed to having Ben Novack killed.
“It’s a way for Mr. Veliz to try to contort the rules of evidence to pin this on someone else,” Karas said.
Defense attorneys have suggested that Abad had a stronger motive to have her stepfather and his mother killed – her children stand to collect the Novack fortune, valued as high as $10 million, if Narcy Novack is convicted of orchestrating the killings.
Federal prosecutors counter that Veliz and Narcy Novack masterminded the fatal plot to cash in on the money. Narcy Novack feared her husband was going to leave her, ending her lavish lifestyle. Both killers in the plot, Alejandro Garcia and Joel Gonzalez, testified that Veliz enlisted them for the scheme and that Narcy Novack let them into the couple’s hotel suite and remained for much of the brutal attack on her husband.
Ben Novack made millions through Convention Concepts Unlimited, the company he formed in the late 1970s after his father lost ownership of the Fontainebleu Hotel in Miami Beach to bankruptcy