Former Jeffrey Epstein cellmate, bodybuilder ex-cop turned drug trafficker, sentenced


The man accused of assaulting sex-trafficking suspect Jeffrey Epstein in a federal jail has been sentenced to four consecutive terms of life in prison for masterminding a brutal 2016 quadruple murder that killed a man who owed him drug money and three bystanders.

Nicholas Tartaglione, 56, and a group of bodybuilder co-conspirators tortured and killed Martin Luna, 41, over the purported theft of $250,000 in drug money, according to federal prosecutors. 

“Nicholas Tartaglione brutally and senselessly murdered Martin Luna over money, and then ruthlessly executed Urbano Santiago, Miguel Luna, and Hector Gutierrez simply because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time,” U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said Monday. “He tried to cover up his crimes by burying all four victims in a shallow grave on his property.”

Tartaglione had partnered with Luna to run cocaine from Texas to Florida when the victim told him he had been robbed of their proceeds. A few weeks later, Tartaglione lured him out to a meeting, where he allegedly planned to confront him over the cash. But the victim, unaware of the trap, brought his two nephews and a friend along for the ride, according to federal prosecutors.

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Former police officer Nick Tartaglione

This undated photo shows former Briarcliff Manor, New York, police officer Nick Tartaglione.  (Nick Tartaglione)

Tartaglione strangled him with a zip-tie in front of Miguel Luna, the victim’s 25-year-old nephew.

“Tartaglione and two of his associates then transported Miguel, Urbano [Santiago], and Hector [Gutierrez] — who were simply at the wrong place at the wrong time — to a remote wooded location, forced them to kneel, and executed them with gunshots to the back of the head,” Williams said after Tartaglione’s conviction in April 2023.

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Santiago was 35, and Gutierrez was 43.

Hudson Valley police and the FBI discovered the remains of all four buried on Tartaglione’s ranch in Otisville, New York, in December 2016.

Nick Tartaglione poses with his German Shephard dog.

Nick Tartaglione is shown in 2001 in his then-Yonkers home with his former K-9 partner from the Pawling Police Department, now his pet, named Angus. (Journal News – USA TODAY Network)

The killer is a former police officer who received a medical retirement. He was also a bodybuilder who trafficked steroids, cocaine and other drugs around the Hudson Valley region of New York, according to prosecutors. He enlisted two other bodybuilders as muscle to help him collect drug debts.

His lawyers blamed a drug cartel for the murders and denied his involvement.

Tartaglione faced a minimum mandatory sentence of life in prison after federal prosecutors declined to seek the death penalty in charges that included murder, racketeering and kidnapping. The Justice Department asked the judge to impose four life sentences to be served consecutively.

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While awaiting his own trial, he was placed in a jail cell alongside Epstein in Manhattan just weeks before the disgraced financier’s death, which has been ruled a suicide.

Jeffrey Epstein Harvard Sweater

Jeffrey Epstein pictured in Cambridge, Massachusetts on Sept. 8, 2004. (Rick Friedman/Rick Friedman Photography/Corbis via Getty Images)

Epstein accused Tartaglione of assaulting him about a month before guards found him hanged from a bedpost, dead in his cell in the jail’s Special Housing Unit for high-profile prisoners.

Tartaglione was no longer Epstein’s cellmate when he died. After the prior incident, he told guards that Epstein tried to hang himself after they found him with an orange cloth wrapped around his neck.

Epstein’s lawyers and his brother have disputed that version of events, saying the inmate attacked him.

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A report conducted by the Office of the Inspector General chronicled the incident.

“Epstein first told MCC New York staff he thought his cellmate had tried to kill him, but later said he did not know what occurred and did not want to talk about how he had sustained his injuries,” according to the Office of Inspector General report. He spent a day on suicide watch and was cleared, according to authorities.



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