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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of New York

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, April 5, 2018

Frank Mercedes Sentenced To Life In Prison Plus 10 Years For Hiring Contract Killers In 1999 Murder

Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that FRANK MERCEDES was sentenced today to life in prison plus 10 years for murder in connection with a drug conspiracy, murder-for-hire, murder-for-hire conspiracy, and use of a firearm resulting in death, in connection with his role in the murder of Richard Diaz, 28, in Manhattan in 1999.  MERCEDES was convicted after a one-week jury trial before U.S. District Judge Richard J. Sullivan, who imposed today’s sentence.

U.S. Geoffrey S. Berman said:  “Frank Mercedes callously ordered the murder of someone who had stolen from his drug business.  As a result of that order, 28-year-old Richard Diaz—an innocent man who had nothing to do with Mercedes’ drug trafficking—was brutally killed in the summer of 1999.  Today’s proceeding is a reminder that this Office will never stop working to obtain justice on behalf of those affected by this type of senseless violence. We hope that today’s sentence, almost 20 years after Mr. Diaz’s death, brings some small measure of peace to Mr. Diaz’s family.”

According to the evidence introduced at trial, other proceedings in this case, and documents previously filed in Manhattan federal court:

FRANK MERCEDES, a/k/a “Jabao,” ran a significant drug enterprise in Upper Manhattan in the late 1990s.  In the summer of 1999, MERCEDES hired three men, including Jose Luis Gracesqui, a/k/a “Muffler,” to kill one of his drug customers (the “Intended Victim”) after the Intended Victim and a number of his associates stole heroin and money from MERCEDES.

On the night of July 19, 1999, after tracking the Intended Victim for days, Gracesqui and another member of the crew saw the Intended Victim in a car and followed the car through Manhattan.  When the car with the Intended Victim stopped at a red light, Gracesqui approached the passenger’s side window and began shooting.  The shots hit both the Intended Victim and Richard Diaz, who was driving the car.  Mr. Diaz was able to drive a short distance to the Henry Hudson Parkway, until he lost consciousness and died.  The Intended Victim sustained serious injuries, although he survived.  Shortly thereafter, MERCEDES met with Gracesqui and the other members of the hit team to pay them tens of thousands of dollars for committing the murder. 

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MERCEDES, 51, from the Dominican Republic, was sentenced to three concurrent life sentences, to be followed by a consecutive term of ten years.

Gracesqui was previously convicted in January 2016 of charges relating to his role in the murder of Richard Diaz, and also is currently serving a life sentence. 

Mr. Berman praised the investigative work of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) New York Drug Enforcement Task Force, which comprises agents, detectives, and investigators from the DEA, the New York City Police Department, and the New York State Police.  Mr. Berman also thanked the Special Agents of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.

This case is being prosecuted by the Office’s Violent and Organized Crime Unit. Assistant United States Attorneys Rebekah Donaleski, Jessica K. Fender, and Laurie A. Korenbaum are in charge of the prosecution.

Topic(s): 
Violent Crime
Press Release Number: 
18-110
Updated April 5, 2018