Joon H. Kim, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that FRANK MERCEDES was found guilty yesterday of murder in connection with a drug conspiracy, murder-for-hire, murder-for-hire conspiracy, and use of a firearm resulting in death, for his role in the murder of Richard Diaz, 28, in Manhattan in 1999. MERCEDES was convicted after a one-week jury trial before U.S. District Judge Richard J. Sullivan.
Acting U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said: “Thanks to the work of dedicated agents, detectives, and prosecutors who relentlessly pursued justice, the cold-case murder of an innocent 28-year-old man has been solved after more than 18 years. We hope the verdict brings some measure of peace to Richard Diaz’s family.”
According to the evidence introduced at trial, other proceedings in this case, and documents previously filed in Manhattan federal court:
FRANK MERCEDES, a/k/a “Jabao,” ran a significant drug enterprise in Upper Manhattan in the late 1990s. In the summer of 1999, MERCEDES hired three men, including Jose Luis Gracesqui, a/k/a “Muffler,” to kill one of his drug customers (the “Intended Victim”) after the Intended Victim and a number of his associates stole heroin from MERCEDES.
On the night of July 19, 1999, Gracesqui and a member of his crew saw the Intended Victim in a car with Richard Diaz and began following them through Manhattan. When the car with the Intended Victim stopped at a red light, Gracesqui got out of the car that he had been in, approached the car with the Intended Victim, and began shooting. The shots hit both the Intended Victim and the driver of the car, Richard Diaz. Diaz was able to drive a short distance to the Henry Hudson Parkway, until he lost consciousness and died. The Intended Victim sustained injuries but survived. Shortly thereafter, MERCEDES met with Gracesqui and the other members of the hit team to pay them tens of thousands of dollars in exchange for committing the murder.
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MERCEDES, 51, from the Dominican Republic, faces a mandatory minimum sentence of life in prison. MERCEDES is scheduled to be sentenced on April 4, 2018, before Judge Sullivan.
Gracesqui was previously convicted in January 2016 of charges relating to his role in the murder of Richard Diaz, and is currently serving a life sentence.
Mr. Kim praised the investigative work of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) New York Drug Enforcement Task Force, which is comprised of agents, detectives and investigators from the DEA, the New York City Police Department and the New York State Police. Mr. Kim also thanked the NYPD.
This case is being prosecuted by the Office’s Violent and Organized Crimes Unit. Assistant United States Attorneys Rebekah Donaleski, Jessica K. Fender, and Laurie A. Korenbaum are in charge of the prosecution.