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Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: To inherit the family fortune
Number of victims: 2
Date of murders: April 4/July 12, 2009
Date of arrest: July 13, 2010
Date of birth: 1947
Victims profile: Berenice Novack, 87 (her husband's mother) / Ben Novack Jr., 53 (her millionaire husband)
Method of murder: Beating with a plumber's wrench / Beating with dumbbells
Location: Broward County, Florida/Westchester County, New York, USA
Status: Sentenced to life in prison without parole on December 16, 2012

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Narcy Novack, brother get life for killing her husband, mother-in-law

By Timothy O'Connor -

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 sentences.

"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 sentence.

"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 -

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 Broward County.

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 face.

“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 house.

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 the story.

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 polygraph test.

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 during trial.

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 him.

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 sentencing.


'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 Lauderdale home.

Novack and her brother, Cristobal Veliz of New York City, both were convicted of charges including racketeering, domestic violence, stalking, money laundering and witness tampering.

Both were acquitted of the charge of murder in aid of racketeering, wich would have carried a mandatory life sentence.

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 verdict.

"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 conscientious jury."

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 estate.

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 plumber's wrench.

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. Let's go."

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 months later.

Bloody photographs were shown to the jury.

"The crime scene photos were the worst," Daly said.

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 tip".

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 surveillance video.

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 -

Just There on Business

Until 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 suite.

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 room.

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 controversy.)

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 homicide."

Still, they didn't arrest or charge her. That would come later.

Marrying Well

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 trips.

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 can.

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 were stolen."

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 indicted.

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 murder.

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 family affair.

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, 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 death.

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 the hotel.

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 innocence."


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 estate.


Narcy 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.

Narcy 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.

Her brother and co-defendant, Cristobal Veliz of Brooklyn, was also sentenced to life in prison in federal court in White Plains.

They were 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.

The U.S. 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 imaginable.”

Novack’s lawyer, Howard Tanner, told the judge that federal guidelines would be satisfied with a 27-year sentence. Novack is 56.

“She would 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.

Prosecutors 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.

One key 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.

She said 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.”

The 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.

Veliz 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.

Narcy Novack did not testify.

In addition to the murder charge, the defendants were convicted of domestic violence, stalking, money laundering and witness tampering.



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