Rancho Santa Fe woman alleged target of murder plot


By R. Stickney and Tony Shin

NBC San Diego

A limo driver was arrested March 5 accused of conspiring to kill two witnesses scheduled to testify against a former Internal Revenue Service agent.

Officers arrested Norman Russell Thellman Friday at his home in Santee. The 64-year-old was the limousine driver of Steven Martinez, a former IRS agent who faces federal charges for stealing $11 million in tax payments from more than a dozen clients.

Prosecutors accuse Thellman of conspiring with Martinez to kill two people scheduled to be key witnesses in Martinez’ federal trial.

Agents say they found more than $42,000 in cash hidden in a cereal box in Thellman’s home. Thellman told the FBI the cash came from Martinez but denied he knew the money was to pay a hitman officials said.

Martinez, 51, was arrested by FBI agents outside his office in Sorrento Valley on Friday after an individual came forward last week with information about the alleged hit.

The targets were identified as 86-year-old Monique Siegel of La Jolla and Marianne Harmon of Rancho Santa Fe.

Prosecutors allege Thellman was ordered to deliver money to a hit man who was promised $100,000 for the two killings.

Early last year, Martinez, was indicted on 49 criminal counts including mail fraud and money laundering.

Martinez would allegedly tell his clients they owed a significant amount of tax and then persuade his clients to write the check payable to a client trust account instead of the IRS or California Franchise Tax Board, investigators said.

Martinez would then allegedly deposit the check into several different bank accounts.

Martinez used the funds to pay for a multi-million dollar home in Ramona, an airplane, a boat, a motor home, trips to the Super Bowl and vacations in Mexico, investigators said.

Martinez, an IRS agent from 1988 to 1992, faces a pretrial hearing March 19.

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