Small business owner, Pavlos “Paul” Kaimacliotis was sentenced on Monday to a federal prison term in excess of 10 years for his role in a kidnapping conspiracy that was infiltrated and thwarted by the FBI earlier this year.
Kaimacliotis, 36, of Jupiter, cut a plea deal back in August to an attempted kidnapping charge. Under the terms of the agreement he would testify against his friend Michael Melillo, who the FBI has branded the architect of the plot. Melillo, a Palm Beach Gardens businessman who was previously an attorney in New Jersey, allegedly planned the kidnapping for close to 18 months along with Kaimacliotis who supposedly withdrew his involvement at some point during that time. However, he admitted to agreeing to act as a lookout for Melillo the day the ransom was supposed to be delivered.
Earlier, in June of this year, a federal judge in West Palm Beach refused to set any bail citing Kaimacliotis as a flight risk and too much of a danger to the community to go free before the trial commenced. This was despite an offer of more than $1.25 million worth of property as bond. The courtroom was also packed with several character witnesses prepared to testify on his behalf, of which many were lawyers.
Originally from Cyprus, Kaimacliotis appeared to be forcing back tears from his eyes as his lawyer described a man so well-liked that in excess of seventy people chose to write letters on his behalf. He was the owner of his own flooring business and his immediate family consists of his wife and four young daughters.
U.S. District Judge Daniel T.K. Hurley said he had not ever witnessed such an assortment of praising letters about an accused defendant, affecting him to feel “totally at a loss” in how Kaimacliotis became a party to such an appalling arrangement. When the judge questioned him further about how he got caught up in such a heinous situation, Kaimacliotis struggled to afford a clear response. “Melillo inserted himself in my life and it was very hard to get rid of him,” Kaimacliotis replied to the Judge’s examination.
Under the suggested federal sentencing guidelines, the 121-month prison sentence was the minimum term of incarceration that Kaimacliotis could have acquired. His lawyer specified that his client will likely be back in front of Judge Hurley in the hopes of a reduction of sentence established by his cooperation with the federal authorities connected to the case.
Melillo, 50, is scheduled to go to trial next month on two kidnapping charges, one of which can carry a sentence of life in prison. According to witness testimony, it was his plan to kidnap a wealthy Palm Beach Gardens man, and then demand a $20 million ransom from his wife for his return. If she didn’t come up with the money fast, he would send a few of her husband’s fingers as an alarming incentive to come up with the cash.
According to court records, what Melillo didn’t know was that the authorities had learned about the plot when the FBI was alerted by two people who came to their West Palm Beach office last May. One of them was a woman who was described as being personally involved with Melillo.
Melillo was then introduced to an undercover FBI agent posing as a sinister character, court records reveal. Melillo then expressed to the undercover agent that he was planning to kidnap a Palm Beach Gardens man who he believed was engineering private high-stakes poker games which had personally cost him more than $100,000, according to the FBI.
After gaining Melillo’s confidence the undercover FBI agent was able to satisfy Melillo that he had kidnapped the target on May 29th. He then exhibited to Melillo a photo of the victim bound in restraints, holding that day’s newspaper to display the date, convincing Melillo that the deed was done, according to court records.
After showing him the staged photo the agent then gave Melillo a cell phone number that he said belonged to the victim’s wife, but was in fact being directed to a female FBI agent, according to federal authorities.
During the investigation, the intended kidnapping target and his family were taken by FBI agents to an undisclosed location to guarantee their protection, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert H. Waters Jr.
The victim’s identity has been kept under wraps by Federal prosecutors and during proceedings, lawyers for both the prosecution and defense have been vigilant to avoid mentioning the name of the victim and his family members.
As the investigation continued Melillo made the phone call to the provided number and initially demanded $20 million from who he believed to be the victim’s wife. But over three hours of negotiation, he dropped his ransom demand to $12.5 million, court records show. He then directed the supposed wife of the victim to bring the money to Palm Beach International Airport and place it in the trunk of a specified vehicle. After Melillo believed this was completed, he and the undercover FBI agent drove to the location to pick it up, federal authorities said.
Melillo was seen by the FBI that day meeting with Kaimacliotis, while under their surveillance. At the time of his arrest, later that evening, Kaimacliotis confessed that Melillo had called him earlier in the day to let him know that the kidnapping was taking place and for him to pose as a lookout.
Melillo was arrested when he later went to meet the FBI agent in the parking lot of a Home Depot in West Palm Beach to distribute the fictitious ransom money.
AUSA Waters specified that the intended target and his wife have been deeply damaged by the kidnapping plot attempt, and now are both frequently looking over their shoulders and living in fear.
Kidnapping and attempted kidnapping are Federal charges. As described above the penalties for kidnapping and attempted kidnapping can be very severe. A conviction of kidnapping can conceivably result in a sentence of life imprisonment. If you are being investigated for, or charged with kidnapping or attempted kidnapping and need a criminal defense lawyer in Dade, Broward or Palm Beach Counties who specializes in these types of cases, The Law Office of Michael B. Cohen can provide you with the skilled representation you require to protect your rights.
Mr. Cohen is a board certified criminal trial lawyer.
He is rated AV by Martindale Hubbel (pre-eminent) and a “Super Lawyer” recognized as being in the top 5% of his specialized field (criminal trial law) among Florida lawyers. He is considered a specialist by the Florida Bar in his field. Mr. Cohen has tried scores of cases over his 35 year career and is a member of the Florida and New York Bars. His law firm is located in Fort Lauderdale, and he practices there, West Palm Beach and Miami, among other Florida counties. He is also admitted to practice in the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh and Second Circuit.