Narcy Novack, brother get
life for killing her husband, mother-in-law
By Timothy O'Connor - Newsday.com
December 17, 2012
Narcy Novack and her brother, Cristobal Veliz,
were sentenced to life in prison Monday for plotting the grisly
2009 slayings of Novack's millionaire husband and his mother.
Novack, 55, and Veliz, 59, were convicted in June of the brutal
death of Ben Novack Jr., son of the founder of the famed
Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach. They also were found guilty of
ordering the deadly attack on Bernice Novack in April 2009.
"The defendants are pathological liars. They
are extraordinarily dangerous sociopaths," Assistant U.S. Attorney
Elliott Jacobson said Monday. "They are responsible for the death
of two innocent human beings and they must be made to pay."
U.S. District Judge Kenneth Karas told a
crowded courtroom, which included Westchester County District
Attorney Janet DiFiore, that he had never handed out such stiff
"Because of Ms. Novack's greed and her
selfishness and what she thought was her ability to manipulate
others there are two innocent people -- her husband and her
mother-in-law -- who are dead."
As she did when the jury found her guilty,
Narcy Novack refused to be in the courtroom to hear her sentence.
Dressed in blue prison garb, her long graying
hair tied by two rubber bands in a pony tail, Narcy Novack, a
former stripper, nonchalantly waived her right to hear her
sentence under questioning by Karas before the hearing began.
"You want to absent yourself from this
sentencing?" Karas asked her.
She sat with her head tilted to one side and
calmly said, "Yes, I do."
She then was led out of the courtroom through a
side door by deputy U.S. Marshals.
Karas said the refusal to be in the court, like
the killings, was evidence she was a coward.
"Her final act of cowardice was walking out of
this courtroom today," he said
Veliz, who looked pale and drawn, continued to
deny his guilt Monday. As he did during the trial, Veliz
repeatedly blamed Narcy Novack's daughter for the crimes.
"The real criminal, the one who arranged this
whole thing, was May Abad. They have no evidence against me. I
don't know what I'm doing here."
Jacobson said May Abad was interviewed several
times, including by him. "There is absolutely nothing in the
evidence to indicate that Ms. Abad was involved in these
homicides," he said.
Ben Novack Jr. was bound with duct tape and
beaten to death with dumbbells by hit men sent by his wife and
brother-in-law during a July 12, 2009, attack at the Rye Brook
Hilton. His mother, 84-year-old Bernice Novack, was beaten to
death with a plumber's wrench on April 4, 2009, during an attack
by a Veliz accomplice.
During the trial, prosecutors argued that Narcy Novack wanted her
estranged husband of 21 years and her mother-in-law dead so she
could inherit the family fortune, estimated at $8 million. She
feared that her husband was going to leave her for ex-porn actress
Rebecca Bliss and that a prenuptial agreement would provide her
with a mere $65,000.
Federal prosecutors said Novack recruited Veliz
and a group of henchmen, who said they beat Bernice Novack in the
head with a plumber's wrench and sliced the eyes of Ben Novack.
"Narcy Novack and her brother, Cristobal Veliz, have blood on
their hands and unspeakable acts of violence to their names," U.S.
Attorney Preet Bharara said after the sentencing. "And they will
spend the rest of their lives in prison answering for what they
did in the name of money."
DiFiore added that Veliz and Novack got the
sentences they deserved.
"Narcy Novack and Cristobal Veliz are finally
being held accountable for their gruesome and brutal conduct,"
DiFiore said. "It was pure greed that drove their evil scheme to
steal millions of dollars from the Novack family by murdering Ben
Novack Jr. (and) his elderly mother Bernice Novack."
Narcy Novack's attorney, Howard Tanner, said
after court his client intends to appeal the verdict and the
"The sentence was not unexpected," he said.
"She still asserts her innocence."
Narcy Novack gets life in
prison for killing her hotel heir husband
‘The devil got her due,’ the lead police
detective said after Monday’s sentencing in the murder of Fort
Lauderdale heir Ben Novack Jr.
By Julie K. Brown - MiamiHerald.com
December 17, 2012
An epic family murder saga ended Monday when
Narcy Novack, wife of Fontainebleau hotel heir Ben Novack Jr., was
sentenced to life in prison with no parole.
Three years after she and her brother,
Cristobal Veliz, planned and helped execute Ben Novack and his
mother, Bernice, the convicted killers, who had remained loyal to
each other throughout the trial, made it clear their family ties
would not extend to prison.
Veliz also received a life sentence during the
federal court proceeding in White Plains, N.Y.
Each blamed the other for masterminding the
murders, and their lawyers each asked the judge for leniency,
claiming they were less culpable because the other sibling had
pulled the strings.
U.S. District Judge Kenneth M. Karas was not
swayed. He called the crimes “vile.”
Novack, 56, a former Hialeah stripper, was
convicted of 12 of the 13 counts against her; her brother was
convicted on 14 of 15 counts. Both were acquitted of felony
murder, which in a federal case requires the victim to be robbed
as well as killed.
Novack did not attend the sentencing, but
listened to her fate on a speaker in a room adjacent to the
courtroom. Karas called her absence “a final act of cowardice,”
according to those in the courtroom.
Novack, who ordered the hit men to cut out her
husband’s eyes, now will see little more than the inside of a
federal prison. She will spend her days in a prison jumpsuit and
sneakers and sleep on a jail cot. Known as a late riser, Novack
will be forced up at the crack of dawn each day to do chores, like
washing floors and scrubbing toilets.
Her new life will be far cry from her
jet-setting days of drinking champagne and having servants do her
cooking and cleaning.
With her conviction, she loses all rights to
the bounty she hoped to claim after the murders. While she was
designated as the sole beneficiary of Ben Novack’s estimated $10
million estate, under Florida’s Slayer Statute she now forfeits
everything. Karas also ordered that her personal assets be seized.
“She lived a life of privilege,” Karas said of
Novack. “If she had a marriage she wasn’t happy with . . . she
could have gotten a divorce.”
Novack, and her brother, 59, both natives of
Ecuador, were convicted in June of plotting the July 12, 2009,
killing of her husband, 53, son of the late Ben Novack Sr., who
built Miami Beach’s storied Fontainebleau hotel. Narcy Novack
believed that her husband was going to leave her for another woman
and that she would be left with a fraction of his wealth.
Under Ben Novack Jr.’s will, his mother, had
she lived, would have been appointed as curator of his estate and
received $200,000 in cash plus $2,500 per month. Though Narcy
Novack would receive the balance — and the bulk — of her husband’s
property and money, Bernice Novack, 86, as curator, would have
exercised great control over the purse strings. She probably would
have made life difficult for her daughter-in-law, whom she once
accused of trying to poison her.
Novack’s attorney, Howard Tanner, argued that
his client should be sentenced to 27 years instead of life,
claiming that her brother planned the murders. As he did during
the trial, Veliz claimed that Narcy’s daughter, May Abad,
engineered the killings, an allegation that prosecutors dismissed
years ago. With her mother now convicted, Abad’s two grown sons
are designated to inherit the estate.
However, a long list of Novack family members
are contesting Ben Novack’s will, including his first cousin,
Andrea Hissom Wynn, 48, who last year married Las Vegas hotel
billionaire Steve Wynn, 69. Hissom, who was divorced, is the
daughter of the late Arlene Novack, Ben Novack Sr.’s niece. Her
father, Victor Danenza, was an international financier who fled to
France in 1976 amid an FBI probe into stock fraud.
Other family members contesting the will:
Hissom’s brother, Joseph Danenza; and first cousins Gerald
Brezner, Meredith Fiel and Lisa Fiel. Maxine Fiel, Bernice’s
sister, and Ronald Novack, Novack Sr.’s adopted son, are also part
of the lawsuit, which is winding its way through probate court in
In sentencing Narcy Novack and Veliz, Karas
spoke about a letter he received from Doug Reynolds, one of
Bernice Novack’s neighbors.
Reynolds pointed out that if Novack received
just 27 years, as her lawyer suggested, she would conceivably be
released in her mid-80s, or about the same age Bernice Novack was
when her life was taken. Karas agreed that it would be an
injustice if Bernice Novack’s killers lived out their lives in
freedom when Bernice could not.
“Think the best part of the whole thing is that
Bernice got justice,” said Rye Brook detective Terence Wilson, the
lead investigator, adding: “The devil got her due.”
Tanner said afterward that his
client still maintains her innocence and is likely to appeal.
Novack, who has been jailed since her arrest in
2010, is acclimating herself to prison, he said.
“Prison is not a happy place, nor should it
be,” Tanner said. “Now she has a life sentence, it will set in.”
Among those in the packed courtroom Monday were
several jurors who were part of the eight-week trial. They told
reporters that they felt Novack and Veliz got what they deserved.
The bloodshed began on April 5, 2009, when two
hit men hired by the siblings drove to Bernice Novack’s home at
2737 NE 37th St. in Fort Lauderdale. One of the hit men, Alejandro
Garcia, said he hid next to Bernice Novack’s garage. As it grew
dark, Novack, clad in a nightgown, came out of her house and
pulled her car into the garage. Garcia followed her inside, and as
she began to step out of her vehicle, he clubbed her on the head
with a monkey wrench. As she screamed, he continued to beat her in
“The plan was to hit her in the teeth and give
her a good beating,” Garcia testified during trial.
Garcia then fled, leaving the Novack matriarch
sprawled in the front seat of her car. She managed to pull herself
out of the vehicle and get inside her house, where she tried to
clean up the blood. But she collapsed and died in the laundry
room. Her son found her body the next morning, drenched in blood
with blood smeared in her car, the garage and throughout the
An autopsy showed that her teeth were broken,
along with a finger, and that her skull was cracked. Fort
Lauderdale police and the Broward medical examiner, however, ruled
the death an accident, theorizing that she died from a fall.
Believing that they had gotten away with one
murder, Narcy and her brother then focused on getting her husband
out of the way. In addition to his $10 million estate, they
intended to take control of his company, Convention Concepts
Unlimited, which reportedly grossed $50 million a year.
On July 12, Garcia and another hired
accomplice, Joel Gonzalez, were driven to Rye Brook, N.Y., a
wealthy Westchester County suburb, where Ben Novack was organizing
a convention at the Hilton Rye Town hotel for his largest client,
Amway International. That morning, after working most of the
night, Ben Novack climbed into bed about 6:30 a.m. to get a few
hours of rest. About 7 a.m., Narcy Novack opened the door to their
suite, and Garcia and Gonzalez entered.
She motioned toward the bedroom where her
husband was sleeping, and the two thugs began pounding him with
hand weights, as he screamed and tried to fight back. Narcy Novack
became alarmed by her husband’s cries and gave the killers a
pillow to muffle his shouting. They then bound his arms and legs
with duct tape and wrapped his mouth so tightly with the tape that
he choked on his own vomit.
Garcia said that Novack then told him finish
the job by gouging out her husband’s eyes with a utility knife,
purportedly the last act of a wife who had endured years of her
husband’s sexual perversions and infidelities.
His lover, Rebecca Bliss, a onetime porn star,
claimed that she had met Novack on a website and that at the time
of his murder, the two had fallen in love and that she believed he
was going to leave his wife. Ben Novack had set her up in a
comfortable apartment in Fort Lauderdale, bought her furniture and
sound equipment, and paid for her to have lavish spa treatments.
He also bought her a puppy.
Narcy Novack discovered the affair and, in
January 2009, she tracked Bliss down and offered her $10,000 to
stop seeing her husband. When she refused, Narcy Novack called
Bliss’ landlady and informed her that Bliss’ rent would no longer
be paid by Ben Novack because he was dead. The landlady didn’t buy
Her husband continued the affair and Novack
enlisted her brother to plan the murders.
After her husband’s death, she cleaned out his
safe deposit boxes and began to liquidate some of their assets.
During her initial interrogation by police, she flunked a
The investigation soon led New York detectives
to Garcia and Gonzalez, who lived in Miami. Garcia was paid $600
to beat Bernice Novack and $15,000 to kill Ben Novack Jr. Gonzalez
received $3,500. Both confessed and testified against the siblings
Prosecutors detailed for jurors
a long trail of bank and credit card receipts, cellphone records,
wire transfers and a damaging video from an ATM showing Veliz
withdrawing cash en route to New York with the killers following
Novack’s and Veliz’s attorneys argued that the
hit men were lying to save their own skins.
Garcia and Gonzalez will be sentenced at a
later date. As part of their arrangement with prosecutors, the
judge will be asked to consider their cooperation at their
'Jealousy, retribution and greed': widow
convicted in hotel heir's killing
June 21, 2010
A Florida woman and her brother have found
guilty of orchestrating the killings of the woman's millionaire
husband and his mother in a grab for the family estate.
A US federal jury said Narcy Novack of Fort
Lauderdale caused the savage 2009 beatings of Ben Novack Jr. in a
suburban New York hotel room and Bernice Novack at her Fort
Novack and her brother, Cristobal Veliz of New
York City, both were convicted of charges including racketeering,
domestic violence, stalking, money laundering and witness
Both were acquitted of the charge of murder in
aid of racketeering, wich would have carried a mandatory life
Jurors said they had been instructed that to
convict on that count, the killing had to be part of a robbery,
which they said wasn't proven.
The defendants still could get up to life in
prison when sentenced on November 1.
Novack chose not to attend the reading of the
"We all wondered, 'Where's Narcy?' said juror
Danielle Daly of Yonkers.
Veliz was present and showed no emotion.
US attorney Preet Bharara said Novack and Veliz
"will now have to answer for the blood of Ben Novack and his
elderly mother". He called the killings gruesome and sadistic.
Westchester County District Attorney Janet
DiFiore called the defendants "modern-day public enemies."
Novack's lawyer, Howard Tanner, said afterward,
"We put on our defence, and the jury has spoken. They were a
Prosecutors said Novack and Veliz were
motivated by "jealousy, retribution and greed" when they hired the
thugs who carried out the killings.
They said Novack feared that her husband, who
was having an affair, would divorce her, and that a prenuptial
agreement would bar her from the multimillion-dollar family
Ben Novack Jr. had a successful travel company.
His father built the storied Fontainebleau hotel in Miami Beach, a
celebrity hangout in the 1950s and '60s that appeared in the
movies Scarface and Goldfinger.
The defence had tried to blame the killings on
Narcy Novack's daughter, whose sons will now inherit the estate.
Prosecutors said Novack, 55, paid Veliz, 58, to
hire hit men to assault the victims. The killers testified that
Veliz recruited them and relayed instructions from Novack on how
to carry out the killings.
They testified that those instructions included
blinding Ben Novack Jr. - his eyes were slashed with a utility
knife - and bashing 86-year-old Bernice Novack in the teeth with a
The killers also testified that Narcy Novack
identified her husband to them in advance by stroking his hair in
a restaurant as they watched.
They said that on the day of Ben Novack's
killing, Narcy Novack called Veliz, who said: "Well, she's ready.
One said that when they got to the Hilton hotel
in Rye Brook, New York, where Ben Novack's company was running an
Amway convention, Narcy Novack motioned them into her room,
directed them to her sleeping husband, gave them a pillow to
muffle his screams and questioned them afterward to make sure he
had been blinded.
One key witness was Rebecca Bliss, a former
prostitute and porn actress, who said she was having an affair
with Ben Novack when he was killed.
She said Narcy Novack tried to buy her off for
$US10,000 and told her: "If she couldn't have him, no other woman
was going to have him."
Another witness, Alejandro Garcia, said he
killed Bernice Novack by slamming her in the head with a wrench in
the driveway of her home on April 4, 2009. He and Joel Gonzalez
testified that they beat Ben Novack to death with dumbbells three
Bloody photographs were shown to the jury.
"The crime scene photos were the worst," Daly
Garcia said the plan was to beat up the
victims, not kill them. He said Ben Novack was to be injured so
severely he would have to retire and Narcy Novack and Veliz would
take over his travel company.
At first the plan included cutting off Novack's
testicles, but that evolved into slashing his eyes, he said.
He said Veliz promised him $15,000 and "a good
Both defendants are natives of Ecuador.
The family intrigue in the case deepened when
the defence strategy turned out to be blaming May Abad, who was
Narcy Novack's daughter and Ben Novack's stepdaughter.
Defence attorneys said Abad, who wasn't
charged, could benefit by ordering the killings and framing her
mother because her two sons would then inherit the bulk of the
family estate - which includes Ben Novack's large collection of
Batman memorabilia - if Narcy Novack were convicted.
Abad denied any involvement.
Narcy Novack didn't testify at the trial,
though she spoke to investigators for hours after the killing and
said: "Only a monster can do this kind of evil thing."
She had told police in 2002, when complaining
that her husband had hit her, that her husband had a fetish — and
picture collection — involving female amputees.
And she alleged that she once went under
anesthesia to have a broken nose fixed "and when she woke up she
had breast implants", a detective testified.
Veliz held the stand for days, repeatedly
denying the prosecution's account but sometimes stumbling to
explain away credit card records, mobile phone logs and an ATM
He denied that he went to a Kmart near Miami
and bought the dumbbells, one pink and one blue, that were used to
bash Ben Novack.
"I think Cristobal dug his own grave by
testifying," said Daly, the juror. "He was lying."
The Glamorous Life and Grisly
Death of Ben Novack Jr.
By Tricia Romano - TruTV.com
Just There on Business
he was killed in July 2009, Florida millionaire and entrepreneur,
Ben Novack Jr., 53, lived the good life.
He had grown up in one of Florida's most famous
and rich families. As the son of Ben Novack, he'd had an unusual
childhood playground: the notorious Fontainebleau, a luxurious
hotel in South Miami Beach, where the likes of Frank Sinatra,
Esther Williams and Marilyn Monroe, had stayed.
When it appeared in the 1950s, the hotel, a
sprawling, 1,504-room property upped the stakes in the high-end
resort game. Its signature facade has since been featured in
numerous movies, including the James Bond film, Goldfinger,
cementing in it pop culture memory. Its unique design, including
an elaborate two-story grand staircase, earned it a place in the
U.S. National Register of Historic Places.
The success of the Fontainebleau launched the
Novack family into high society. His mother, Bernice, a beautiful
and poised ex-model would meet and greet foreign dignitaries,
celebrities, and powerful politicians, in the family's penthouse
Novack Sr. was a compact but charismatic man
who came to Miami Beach from New York. After several failed
ventures in real estate, he finally hit it big with a small hotel
in South Miami Beach during World War II, setting him on the path
to the Fontainebleau.
Later, after his father died — his business
empire jeopardized by bankruptcy — Novack Jr. would stabilize the
family fortune, and then become famous for a more eccentric
reason: He was a world-renowned collector of Batman memorabilia
and could boast ownership of an actual Batmobile.
Later, in his 30s, Ben Novack Jr. did what many
rich, idle men in resort areas do: He married a former stripper,
indulging in another flashy acquisition.
But Ben Novack Jr.'s death would not be as
glamorous as his life.
It would end in a hotel room far away from the
luxury of the Fontainebleau, at the Hilton Rye Brooke Hotel, in
Rye Brooke, N.Y. The end would be brutal and cruel. And it may
have come at the behest of his own wife.
On the weekend of July 12, 2009, Novack had
gone up to New York for business. Though he was also an
entrepreneur, his business had less flash than his father's. His
company, Convention Concepts Unlimited, which he ran from his
house in Fort Lauderdale, focused mostly on one client: Amway. He
planned major conventions for the company and traveled around the
country to oversee the events.
On July 10, Novack flew to Newark International
Airport. He brought his wife, Narcy Novack, and her daughter, May
Abad, to the 455-room Hilton for yet another Amway conference. The
conference was a big one — over 1,000 guests had converged. On
July 12, according to Narcy Novack's statements to the police, Ben
worked throughout the night, staying up till dawn at 6:30 a.m.,
before finally going to bed. Around 7:15 a.m., Narcy Novack — full
name Narcisa Cira Veliz Pacheco Novack — told police she left the
room to get breakfast. Hotel security videos show her leaving the
She told police she returned to the room 45
minutes later and found a gruesome scene.
The last minutes of Ben Novack Jr.'s life were
spent on the floor, bound and gagged. Duct tape was used to bind
his hands behind his back, and his legs together around his knees.
He had been brutally bludgeoned. Later, it was
determined that he may have been suffocated by a pillow.
Novack lay face down on the floor covered in
blood, according to the search warrant. By the time the police
arrived at the room at 7:57 a.m., he was already dead. A murder
weapon was not immediately identified by the police.
The Investigations Begin
Immediately after the murder, the police
focused their investigation on Narcy Novack. For one thing, the
timing could not be ignored. Police realized the keycard lock had
not been used by anyone else after she'd left. It led the police
to believe that Narcy Novack let the murderers into the room.
The more she talked, the less credible she was.
Narcy Novack, who spoke to police for over 12 hours immediately
following the crime, told police that her husband was a "hard
person," "a strong businessman, [who] has a tendency to make
people angry." Her statements seemed almost calculated to imply
that Novack Jr. was not well-liked and had numerous enemies. In
the course of his career, it was true that Novack Jr. had
frequently butted heads with different city governments, for
instance, squaring off with the city of Pittsburgh over one of his
Amway conventions. (Since the company has been likened to a
pyramid scheme by its detractors, it has often been the subject of
And Novack famously squabbled with officials
closer to home. Nicki Grossman, president of the Greater Fort
Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau described Ben, according
to The Miami Herald, as an "aggressive person. He wanted
to make sure everyone was aware of his issues."
His wife pointed out his difficult personality
when she talked to the police; a search warrant noted: "In
particular, her husband has been hanging out and doing business
with weird people."
Novack, like many millionaires, had eccentric
interests and was particularly noted for his large Batman comic
book collection One of those weird people with whom Ben had been
dealing, according to Narcy Novack's statement to investigators,
was a comic book collector with whom her husband had been dealing
who had come to their Fort Lauderdale house and became upset
during the price negotiation of a comic book — especially since
she had "'retrieved a 'bag' of cash and provided the money to her
husband who in turn gave it to the unknown comic book collector
who left the house with the cash."
But Narcy's stories weren't sitting well with
investigators. They conducted a polygraph test of the widow the
day after the murder and noted that she "showed indications of
deception when questioned pertaining to her knowledge of this
Still, they didn't arrest or charge her. That
would come later.
Unlike Ben Jr., Narcisa Cira Veliz Pacheco had
not been born rich. She had been born in Ecuador and had been
working as a stripper under the name Sylvia when she met her
future husband. Although, when they met, Sylvia had garishly dyed
and permed blond hair and wore low-cut, tight tank tops which
showed off her figure, later photographs show that Narcy grew into
the role of the wealthy trophy wife. Her hair was died darker and
was carefully coifed; she wore smart suits, and even ran her own
consulting business. She often accompanied Ben on his business
Narcy and Ben,
though they had been married for 19 years, had a tumultuous
relationship, one marked by fights and marred by accusations of
cheating. Her daughter told authorities that Narcy was a
practitioner of voodoo. Of particular interest is the strange 2002
incident that nearly broke up their marriage and served as an
eerie precursor to the murder.
What started out as a typical domestic abuse
call for the Fort Lauderdale police was revealed to be weirder
than anything a Hollywood screenwriter could invent. Police turned
up at the home and found Novack in a scene that would be eerily
suggestive nearly a decade later. He had been bound, gagged and
held hostage by several men at the direction of his wife until
police arrived 24 hours later. In the process, $370,000 of cash
and material goods was stolen from the house..
Charges were never filed and Narcy attributed
the incident to their bizarre sex life. A few days later, they
filed for divorce, but they ended up staying together. Still,
their relationship continued to be a rocky one. In one of the most
bizarre assertions, Narcy Novack had claimed that her husband had
broken her nose, and had sent her to a plastic surgeon to get it
fixed. When she woke up, she claimed, she found new breast
implants, as well.
And in the months before the murder, Narcy's
daughter, May Abad, has told investigators, Ben had been having an
affair. Abad suspects this may have fanned Narcy's fears that Ben
was gearing up for a divorce. All that money would be someone
else's to inherit. Motive, indeed.
Sniffing for Clues
On July 16, four days after the murder, the
police searched the Novack family home at 2501 Delmar Place, Fort
Lauderdale. The two-story, 6,000-square foot residence has six
bedrooms and sits on a half-acre lot. Located in the Seven Isles
neighborhood, the home looks like mini-resort, perhaps an
appropriate place for a man who grew up in one.
During the execution of the search warrant, officers seized
security footage of the house, miscellaneous paperwork, several
computers, copies of the Novacks' bills, phone book and day
planner. And, perhaps most importantly, five rolls of duct tape.
A few clues were revealed in the search of the
hotel room where he was murdered that pointed to an inside job and
not a botched robbery: for one thing, the Rolex that Ben was
wearing was not taken, but found in a pool of blood. And yet,
investigators had also discovered that a gaudy gold bracelet with
"Ben" spelled out in diamonds that Novack never took off was
missing. Also found at the crime scene: a piece of plastic from a
pair of knock-off Versace sunglasses. As Novack was a wealthy man,
knockoffs of any kind in the house would have been remarkable.
Later, investigators said that Narcy had claimed the glasses were
hers, which raised the police's suspicions.
A Rich and Powerful Legacy
In the book, Fool's Paradise, author
Steven Gaines paints a vivid portrait of the Novack family. Ben
Sr.'s first major foray in the hotel business, the Sans Souci,
came at the beginning of his courtship to Bernice, a beautiful
model whom he had met at the La Martinique nightclub. He pursued
her relentlessly, hoping she, still married to a soldier, would
say yes to dinner just once. Rebuffed numerous times he was
finally able to get her attention in a way that only a rich man
Bernice flew to Cuba for a photo shoot, Gaines
wrote, only to discover that it had been an elaborate ruse. There
was no photo shoot. Though they were both married at the time,
they eventually were able to marry each other: Ben got a divorce
and her prior marriage was annulled. They were married in front of
a judge in New York. Bernice and Ben moved into the upscale
confines of the Sans Souci.
In 1952, the plans for the Fontainebleau were
announced — backed by a host of investors, some in the liquor
distribution business, another running a taxi and limo service.
Despite a period of contention between the architect, Morris
Lapidus, and the elder Novack, the Fontainebleau was ultimately a
huge success after it opened on December 20, 1954. The behemoth
sprawled over 85,000 square feet, boasting seven restaurants that
could churn out over 2,000 meals a day. The pool itself was a
massive attraction — and over the years, served as the backdrop in
movies like Scarface and A Hole in the Head,
featuring Frank Sinatra at the height of his rat-pack fame.
Growing up at the Fontainebleau
As during the Sans Souci-era, the Novacks lived
at the hotel, in the Governor's Suite, a 15th-floor apartment in
the Chateau building. Though, writes, Gaines, it was a beautiful
space with amazing panoramic view — one featured in the original
Ocean's 11 — Bernice never felt at home there and
frequently pressed for a different residence. Young Ben, who was
born a year after the hotel opened, soon was garnering a
reputation for being difficult, and drove the hotel staff crazy.
Wrote Gaines: "He was in everybody's hair," Lenore Toby, the
Fontainebleau's ex-publicist, told the author. "We used to call
him Benjy because he was a little tyrant and he hated it. He had
no discipline whatsoever, and his supervisors were the security
guards in the hotel. They brought him up, and as a result that's
what he wanted to be, a security guard."
Gaines interviewed the younger Novack when he
was still alive, who admitted, "I never had a childhood. I was
always among adults."
Novack described a strange, isolated childhood
where birthday parties were canned and forced affairs because he
didn't have a lot of friends and where meals were often made by
the hotel's kitchen staff. The isolated childhood was made even
stranger by his wealth.
His wealth had always made him a target: even
as a child, he had been the subject of kidnapping threats.
The Comic Book Collection and Fight Over the State
One of Narcy's key points to police in the
early days of the investigation was her husband's high profile in
the world of comic books, as well as his volatile personality. The
picture she painted for investigators was that people were after
the Novack fortune, that "her husband has been hanging out and
doing business with weird people," one of whom he had agreed to
pay $43,000 for a single comic book. She did not name the person,
and she insisted that her husband often dealt in cash, carrying
large amounts with him on business trips. And because of the
amount of cash her husband often carried, investigators wrote,
"Narcy advised that she could not determine if large sums of money
Though it took nearly a year to bring charges
against Narcy Novack, it couldn't be argued that she stood to make
a fortune from his death. Initial reports — before the assets were
added up — put his fortune around $6 to $10 million. The Batman
memorabilia — judged to be the second largest in the world — was
worth an estimated $1 million alone, and filled four warehouses.
While investigators circled around Narcy Novack
in the year before charging her, other family members, including
her own daughter, May Abad, attempted to prevent Narcy from taking
over the estate. The day the will was filed, on August 14, 2009,
Narcy and her daughter allegedly had a vicious fight, in which,
May contends, her mother hit her with a crowbar. After police were
called, an investigation into the fight was launched.
Citing the state's so-called "slayer statute"
in which a killer can't inherit the estate, Abad filed suit to
prevent her mother from taking over the estate in the year
following the murder. The case dragged on; The Palm Beach Post
reported that by February 2010 the case file was "four inches
thick — its contents filled with accusations of infidelity, theft
and murder." On February 10, 2010, the judge, Charles M. Greene,
dismissed the lawsuit attempting to remove Narcy as the executor.
The lawyers for the plaintiff asked for the case to be dismissed
without prejudice since Narcy had not yet been charged with any
crime, reserving the right to bring a new suit when and if she was
Adding yet another twist to the tale, Ben's
beloved mother, Bernice had been found dead at the bottom of the
stairs in her Fort Lauderdale home three months before his own
murder. The ruling dismissing the family's lawsuit temporarily
opened the door for Narcy to take control, not just of Ben Jr.'s
estate, but also of his mother's estate.
An Accidental Fall - Or Murder?
During her years at the Fontainebleau, Bernice
Novack was a frequent presence at the famed hotel. In a way, she
was the frontwoman of the hotel, a sort of First Lady for the rich
and famous. She was always immaculately dressed, and she remained
a well-kept and beautiful woman well into her old age. In the full
bloom of her youth she had been a fashion model for Salvador Dali.
She was 87 when, on April 6, 2009, she was
found dead covered in blood with facial and head injuries.
Originally, it was thought that these injuries had been the result
of a series of falls. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel
reported that she had had a history of falls in the few months
leading up to her death; and, though some of her injuries seemed
curious along with the blood smeared along the walls in her home,
her death didn't raise widespread suspicion until much later,
after her son was killed.
Though her sister, Maxine Fiel, had urged the
police to look more closely in the matter, the county coroner,
Joshua Perper, who was widely respected and had handled the
high-profile Anna Nicole Smith case, initially ruled it an
accidental death. Because the case was originally not considered a
likely homicide, police hadn't scoured the scene for DNA or done
much evidence gathering. Rather, they got a break in the case,
just a few days after the arrest and indictment for Ben Jr.'s
The Arrest and Federal Press Release
Nearly a year to the date of the gruesome
murder of Ben H. Novack Jr., the FBI released a statement that
alleged a far-flung conspiracy to kidnap and kill Novack. The team
of people — four, later growing to five — crossed state lines to
New York to do the deed. And authorities maintained that the power
behind it all was Narcy Novack.
Janet DiFiore, the District Attorney of
Westchester County stated: "What transpired on the morning of July
12, 2009, in Ben Novack's hotel room was nothing short of a
calculated plot." George Venizelos, the acting Assistant
Director-in-Charge of the FBI New York Field office, stated: "The
killing of Ben Novack was not a spur-of-the-moment crime of
passion. It was the end game of considerable planning."
Though, in the year leading up the arrests,
police and investigators had made public statements that Narcy
Novack was not a suspect, the indictment revealed that she was the
alleged ringleader and that the whole crime appeared to be a
On July 2, alleged the indictment, Narcy drove
from Florida with her brother Cristobal Veliz to New York and
"scouted the Hilton Hotel in preparation for the attack." The duo
returned again on July 9. But there were other suspected
conspirators as well.
The Other Suspects
In July, the U.S. Attorney's office also named
additional suspects: Joel Gonzalez and Denis Ramirez. Ramirez had
fathered two of Veliz's grandchildren. In the indictment, the
government described Ramirez as the man who drove Gonzalez and an
unnamed conspirator to the hotel on July 10, two days before the
murder, to scout the hotel again. Ramirez, the government
contended, also drove them to the hotel on the day of the crime.
They were let into the room by Novack, who gave them a pillow to
suffocate her husband.
The day after the announcement, Denis Ramirez
turned himself in. Over six months later, Ramirez entered a guilty
plea to the charges of domestic violence and conspiracy. He
confirmed that he had driven the fifth, unnamed conspirator and
Gonzalez to the crime scene.
That fifth person eventually turned out to be
Alejandro Gutierrez-Garcia, 33, and, because his name had not
appeared in any of the court documents, it was believed he had
been cooperating with authorities. The website Lohud.org,
described the Nicaraguan: "a dragon tattoo on his right arm and a
lazy right eye that gives him a particularly sinister look." The
website reported that he had pleaded guilty and had been
cooperating with authorities.
According to America's Most Wanted, a
break in the case came via an anonymous letter mailed to the Miami
Springs Police Department. The police told AMW that they believed
the letter-writer was a religious person, who might have been a
family member, who had knowledge of the crime.
Rye Brook police told The Miami Herald,
"What we found interesting in the letter is there were names in it
at the time we were not aware of, and as we did our own
investigation, we found that information to be true.'' The letter
also urged the investigators to look closer at Bernice Novack's
Singing Like Canaries
As with any case with multiple defendants, it
only takes one person to turn on the others. With the letter
aiding them, police unearthed more people who were allegedly
involved in the crime. As Ramirez came forward and pleaded guilty,
more details about the crime allegedly firmed up. The bracelet
that had gone missing from Ben's arm was reportedly given to
Gonzalez, who turned himself in a few days after the charges were
announced. It was later reported that, because he had not shown up
in court for a status conference in February, it was anticipated
that Gonzalez was cooperating and had pleaded guilty.
The prosecutor, Elliot Jacobson, also said in
court in February 2011 that Ramirez admitted to being the driver
to a "violent robbery" and taking $100 to do the job, but said he
had not gone inside. He pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy
and domestic violence charges and contended that it was Veliz who
had organized the trips at the behest of his sister. Cell phone
records later allegedly revealed that all suspects were present at
Gruesome New Details
The court appearance revealed gruesome new
details; prosecutors alleged that Gonzalez had killed Novack with
a set of dumbbells, while Gutierrez-Garcia, who had pleaded guilty
and was cooperating with the investigation, cut the millionaire's
eyes out and Narcy looked on.
And Garcia pointed the finger at Narcy for the
murder of Bernice.
Throughout it all, Narcy Novack has maintained
her innocence. With only two people still publicly claiming
innocence — Novack and her brother, Cristobal Veliz — and the case
being made for Bernice Novack's murder, a superseding indictment
may be in the works for April 2011. In the most recent court
appearance, Jacobson contended that Narcy and Veliz had
masterminded Bernice's murder.
Narcy's lawyer, Howard Tanner, reaffirmed his
client's innocence in the press despite the guilty pleas and
cooperation of several suspects: "Whatever it is [Gonzalez has]
admitted, if he's admitted anything, I don't believe that he will
hurt my client because my client continues to assert her
After a nine week trial, Fort Lauderdale woman
Narcy Novack was found guilty yesterday of orchestrating the
murder of her husband Ben Novack Jr., 53, an heir to the
Fontainebleau hotel fortune, and his elderly mother, Berenice
Novack. Also convicted was her brother, Cristobal Veliz. Both
were found guilty on multiple counts relating to plotting the
killing, but acquitted on a count of felony murder.
In April, 2009, Berenice Novack, 87, was found
dead in the laundry room of her Florida home. Ben would never get
a chance to act on his suspicions regarding his mother’s death,
which was ruled an accident. On July 12, 2009, two hit men and
several others entered the Rye, NY., hotel room where the Novacks
were staying on business and bludgeoned Ben with hand weights.
They then bound him with tape, and following Narcy’s
instructions, cut out his eyes. At the time of his gruesome
death, Ben was having an affair with porn actress Rebecca Bliss,
and Narcy, a former stripper, feared that he would file for
divorce and lock her out of his family fortune.
After Ben was dead, Narcy stole over $100,000
from his company. She and Veliz also allegedly tried to frame
Narcy’s own daughter, May Abad, for the murder. With Narcy
convicted, Abad and her sons now stand to inherit the Novack
Novack, the South Florida woman who was convicted of hiring hit
men to beat her husband and mother-in-law to death has been
sentenced to life in prison.
Novack of Fort Lauderdale was not in the White Plains, N.Y.,
courtroom to hear the sentence on Monday. She waived her right to
appear, just as she did when the verdict was delivered in June.
and co-defendant, Cristobal Veliz of Brooklyn, was also sentenced
to life in prison in federal court in White Plains.
convicted in June of hiring hit men to carry out the 2009 beating
deaths of Ben Novack Jr. in New York and Bernice Novack in
Florida. Ben Novack was the son of the man who built the
Fontainebleau hotel in Miami Beach.
attorney’s office asked Judge Kenneth Karas to impose life
sentences. Prosecutor Elliott Jacobsen wrote in court papers that
Novack and Veliz “engaged in the very worst criminal conduct
lawyer, Howard Tanner, told the judge that federal guidelines
would be satisfied with a 27-year sentence. Novack is 56.
be released from prison an elderly woman with virtually no
possessions or home,” Tanner wrote. But a sentence short of life
in prison would give her at least “a chance of reformation and
rehabilitation,” he said.
said Narcy Novack feared that her husband would divorce her, and
that a prenuptial agreement would bar her from the
multimillion-dollar family estate. Her motives were “hatred, greed
and vengeance,” the sentencing memo said.
witness at the trial was Rebecca Bliss, a former prostitute and
porn actress, who said she was having an affair with Ben Novack
when he was killed.
Narcy Novack offered her $10,000 to end the affair. According to
Bliss, Novack said that, “If she couldn’t have him, no other woman
was going to have him.”
government said Novack recruited her brother and he hired a group
of thugs who testified about slamming Bernice Novack in the teeth
and head with a plumber’s wrench and beating Ben Novack with
barbells and slicing his eyes with a knife.
testified at length, denying any involvement and blaming Novack’s
daughter, May Abad, for the killings. Abad’s two sons stand to
inherit the bulk of the family estate, which includes Ben Novack’s
large collection of Batman memorabilia.
did not testify.
to the murder charge, the defendants were convicted of domestic
violence, stalking, money laundering and witness tampering.