Lawyer charged in murder-for-hire plot

September 10, 2008 9:00:16 PM PDT
Police say a well-known defense attorney was charged with attempting to arrange the killing of the main witness against his client, a dangerous drug dealer who ran the notorious "Phantom Squad." The attorney, Robert Simels, was accused in a federal complaint of paying $1,000 for the hit - which including strict orders not to kill the witness' mother.

He was arrested Wednesday.

Simels is alleged to have arranged the hit for his client, Shaheed Kahn, who ran a drug dealing ring known as the "Phantom Squad."

Kahn allegedly told his attorney that the case against him hinged on one man, identified in court papers as "John Doe #1."

Simels attempted to "eliminate" and "neutralize" the witness, authorities said, allegedly telling a government informant at one point that, "Obviously, any witness you can eliminate is a good thing."

Authorities say that on June 19, the attorney met with the government informant in his office and handed over $1,000 for the hit.

The two were caught on tape, according to the federal complaint, saying:

Simels: Here's a thousand dollars to get started.
Government Informant: Alright, no problem.
Simels: Um, all he (Kahn) says is be careful. He says don't kill the mother.
Government Informant: Don't kill the mother
Simels: He said you know, said just, just...
Government Informant: So what other option would he prefer?
Simels: He doesn't want you anywhere near her.
Government Informant: No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, I, I can't get anywhere near it. That's why I'm asking about other options does he prefer, you know? So I can know what I'm doing I do exact so what, what I know well he can't say well you know I didn't approve it.
Simels: Well, he'd like as much pressure being put on (John Doe #1) as possible. Uh, but he thinks that if (John Doe #1)'s mother gets killed that...
Government Informant: takes.
Simels: The government will go crazy. Uh, and he's probably right.

During his 30-year career, Simels represented dangerous criminals like Kenneth "Supreme" McGriff, the charismatic gang leader who built a crack empire in Queens and had two rivals assassinated in 2001 with military-like precision.

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