Bar owner held in contracting for murder-for-hire Harford man allegedly sought deaths of two

June 04, 1991|By Bruce Reid | Bruce Reid,Evening Sun Staff

A Harford County bar owner is being held without bond after being charged with contracting with an undercover state trooper to kill his ex-girlfriend's lover.

Giovanni Riviera, 60, owner of the Bush Valley Inn in Abingdon, was arrested late Thursday and charged with solicitation of murder, which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison. Riviera also is charged with solicitation of assault against his ex-girlfriend, from Joppa.

The arrest of Riviera came after the undercover trooper met with the defendant on three occasions in May allegedly to discuss the planned crime, according to a statement of charges filed in Harford County District Court.

A judge on Friday ordered Riviera held in the Harford County Detention Center without bond. Prosecutors argued that Riviera's release would put the alleged intended victims in jeopardy.

Russell J. White, an attorney representing Riviera, declined to comment on the charges. He said he would seek to have bail set for Riviera at a later hearing.

Diana A. Brooks, an assistant state's attorney in Harford who is handling the case, would not say how Riviera allegedly came into contact with the undercover trooper, who was to be paid $3,500 for the crime, according to court records.

Brooks and the court records did not indicate when the crime was to be carried out. "They were close enough that we decided to pop him," Brooks said of Riviera's arrest.

Court records identified the intended victim of the alleged murder plot as Ronald Soto, 53, of Levittown, Pa.

According to court records, the undercover trooper and Riviera met three times beginning May 7. According to the charging document, Riviera said he wanted Soto's arms and legs broken with a baseball bat and he wanted the undercover trooper to "cut off Soto's penis and leave him in an area so he would not be found."

Brooks said Riviera was charged with solicitation for murder because "he made several comments where he knew this would result in death."

According to court records, investigators were told by a physician that such an injury would be fatal if not "immediately" tended to, meaning the victim would quickly bleed to death.

During another alleged meeting on May 10, according to court records, Riviera told the trooper that the rear of his ex-girlfriend's home "would be the perfect place to 'knock her in the head' and 'do Soto.' "

Riviera, a native of Sicily, also stated that he eventually wanted the woman dead, too, according to the charging document.

Riviera has another criminal case pending in Harford County that stems from his relationship with the woman. He is charged with carrying a deadly weapon after he was allegedly caught with an ice pick outside her home in March 1990.

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