New York–Thirteen years after a Manhattan diamond dealer was shot dead in the middle of a crowded sidewalk on Sixth Avenue, the man accused of orchestrating his killing has been found guilty.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York announced Monday that following a six-day trial in front of federal Judge Paul A. Engelmayer, a jury found 65-year-old Hector Rivera guilty of conspiring to commit murder for hire, murder for hire and using a firearm to commit murder.
On May 20, 2004, a diamond dealer named Eduard Nektalov, 46, was gunned down at the corner of Sixth Avenue and 47th Street at about 7:20 p.m.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the shooter–whom the New York Post identified in a 2014 article on Diamond District crime as a “drug-addicted ex-con” named Carlos Fortier–followed Nektalov from his family’s jewelry store, Roman Jeweler on 47th Street, and shot him once in the head and twice in the back.
Rivera, described by prosecutors as the leader of a violent robbery crew, paid Fortier and another man a combined total of $30,000 to kill Nektalov because of “a business dispute between Nektalov and one of Rivera’s criminal associates,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
In 2003, Nektalov was one of about dozen 47th Street jewelers arrested and charged in what federal authorities called “Operation Meltdown.” They were accused of laundering Colombian drug money via gold that they melted down into everyday objects, like belt buckles, that could then be smuggled out of the country.
According to a 2004 profile on Nektalov by New York magazine, he and his father, Roman, were two of the three suspects who did not plead guilty in the case. Nektalov’s murder took place about two months before his trial was slated to begin, though it was never made clear if the two were connected.
Rivera faces a mandatory sentence of life in federal prison. His sentencing is scheduled for April 11, 2018, before Judge Engelmayer.