WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. - Nicholas Tartaglione, the former Briarcliff Manor police officer turned alleged drug conspirator pleaded not guilty to quadruple murder charges in federal court on Thursday.
Last month, United States Attorney for the Southern District Preet Bharara announced that the 49-year-old Tartaglione, who previously worked as an officer in Pawling and Mount Vernon, had been charged in a five-count indictment for his participation in a drug conspiracy to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine and for the murders of four men, all of whom lived in Middletown in Orange County.
According to the indictment that was filed in White Plains Federal Court last year, Tartaglione killed Martin Luna, 41, Urbano Santiago, 32, Miguel Luna, 25, and Hector Gutierrez, 43, at the Likquid Lounge - a bar that his brother reportedly managed for a time in the town of Chester in Orange County - when a cocaine deal went badly involving at least one of the victims.
It is alleged that Tartaglione, a Yonkers native, then drove with the bodies for approximately a half hour from the bar in Chester to his farm in Otisville, also in Orange. Four bodies would be removed from his property the day after he was arrested.
The Medical Examiner’s Office has yet to confirm the identities of the bodies. According to a lohud report, prosecutors have yet to receive the results of autopsies and are awaiting ballistics tests.
On Thursday, Targatlione made an appearance in court, where he pleaded not guilty. He remains held without bond and is due back in court on Thursday, Feb. 16.
Only one or two of the victims were believed to be involved in any drug activity, the others were simply “in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
“While all murders tear at the fabric of our communities, when the alleged perpetrator of a gangland-style, quadruple homicide is a former police officer, that strikes at the heart of civilized society,” Preet Bharara, U.S. District Attorney for the Southern District, stated. “As alleged, Nicholas Tartaglione, a former Briarcliff Manor police officer, participated in the senseless murder of four people in a bar in Chester.
“These four men had not been seen or heard from since the day of their alleged murder. We hope that today’s arrest brings some measure of comfort to the victims’ families and loved ones.”
This isn’t the first time the former Briarcliff Manor K9 Police Officer found himself in trouble with the law.
According to court papers, in 1999, Tartaglione was charged with perjury and official misconduct after testifying in court at a DMV license revocation hearing for a friend. Tartaglione was ultimately acquitted at trial, but fired by the village.
In 2003, he sued to get his job back and received more than $300,000 in back pay. He retired from the force in 2008 on disability with a reported annual pension of $65,000.
Tartaglione also had an ongoing legal battle with the late Clay Tiffany, an Ossining resident who hosted the popular public-access TV show, “Dirge For The Charlatans,” sued the village of Briarcliff Manor multiple times, claiming that Tartaglione assaulted him.
The village ultimately settled the lawsuit with Tiffany in 2000 for more than $1 million.
Tartaglione had reportedly worked as a police officer in Pawling, Mount Vernon and Yonkers prior to Briarcliff Manor.
New York State Police Superintendent George P. Beach II called Tartaglione “a dangerous man,” and said his agency will continue to work with local police departments to keep drugs off the streets.
“Once again, the work of a strong law enforcement partnership has resulted in an alleged dangerous man being taken off the streets,” he stated. “These brutal murders are prime examples of the dangerous crimes that are associated with drug distribution. Narcotics destroy communities and put lives at risk.”