Ex-police officer who once shared cell with Jeffrey Epstein gets life in prison for 4 murders

NEW YORK (AP) — A retired police officer convicted of murdering four people, including a man he tortured and strangled over stolen drug money, was sentenced Monday to four consecutive life terms in prison.

Nicholas Tartaglione, 56, who had been an officer in the Hudson River Valley village of Briarcliff Manor, was convicted last year. His case drew attention both because of the brutality of the crime and because Tartaglione was briefly a cellmate of Jeffery Epstein, the politically connected playboy who killed himself while awaiting trial on federal sex trafficking charges.

The man Tartaglione tortured was Martin Luna, who he believed had stolen $250,000 from him that was meant to buy cocaine, prosecutors said. The other three victims were friends or family who happened to be out at a club with Luna when Tartaglione and two associates kidnapped them in 2016.

Prosecutors said Urbano Santiago, Miguel Luna, and Hector Gutierrez were forced to watch as Tartaglione strangled Martin Luna with a zip tie. Then, they were killed by gunfire. Investigators found the bodies of the four men buried together on Tartaglione’s property in Otisville, New York.

Tartaglione worked for various suburban police departments before retiring on disability from the Briarcliff Manor force in 2008, including the departments in Yonkers, Pawling and Mount Vernon. Tartaglione has maintained his innocence, arguing at trial that he simply ran an animal rescue farm and wasn't motivated by money, according to The Journal News.

One of his alleged accomplices in the murders shot himself in his car in 2017 as FBI agents prepared to arrest him. Another man, Joseph Biggs, was sentenced to 16 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to killing one of the victims. Biggs described the killings as a witness at Tartaglione's trial.

Tartaglione was not Epstein's cellmate at the time of his death, but his lawyer claimed he was a “critical witness” in the ensuing suicide investigation. He had shared a cell with Epstein weeks earlier in 2019, when the wealthy financier was discovered with bruises on his neck and then placed on suicide watch.

The Associated Press