Sherman Oaks man admits trying to have witness killed


A Sherman Oaks man who pleaded guilty earlier this year to a bank fraud charge has admitted to federal authorities that he sought to have a witness in the case killed in a drive-by shooting, officials said Wednesday.

Pavel Valkovich, 28, pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of solicitation of murder for offering to pay $10,000 to arrange for the slaying of a man who was cooperating with authorities in the fraud case against him. Valkovich was involved in a scheme in which he and others used stolen personal identifying information to transfer funds from victims’ bank accounts to PayPal accounts he and his cohorts could access, prosecutors contend.

Solicitation of witness’ murder: In Thursday’s Section A, an article on Pavel Valkovich’s guilty plea to solicitation of murder ended with this paragraph: “Attorney John Niel McNicholas said Valkovich never intended any harm. ‘There never was going to be an attempted murder of anyone in this case,’ he said. ‘It was all a hoax.’ ” McNicholas’ middle name, Neil, was misspelled, and his position was misstated. He says that his client did intend for the killing to occur, but that it was “a hoax” because the man Valkovich asked to commit the crime was secretly cooperating with prosecutors and never intended to go through with it. —

Assistant U.S. Atty. Jennifer L. Williams said Valkovich had initially pleaded not guilty in the case and was seeking to have the witness killed to stop him from testifying. When Valkovich later learned that the person had already begun cooperating, he changed his plea to guilty. But he continued with his plan to have the witness killed, Williams said. Only his motive had changed -- to revenge.

Valkovich approached a fellow inmate in the Federal Detention Center in downtown Los Angeles and asked that he arrange for someone to kill the witness with a gun equipped with a silencer, according to prosecutors. Unfortunately for Valkovich, the witness in the fraud case wasn’t the only one who ended up cooperating with authorities. The inmate he approached as a go-between told prosecutors about the plot and agreed to testify against Valkovich.

Valkovich was charged with the crime and transferred to another jail. Apparently unfazed, he approached another inmate, this time about arranging a pair of killings, prosecutors contend. He wanted the original informant dead, as well as the first inmate who was supposed to have arranged for the informant’s killing.

Attorney John Niel McNicholas said Valkovich never intended any harm. “There never was going to be an attempted murder of anyone in this case,” he said. “It was all a hoax.”