Widow of Fla. hotel heir among 4 charged in his death; victim was Fontainebleau founder’s son

By Jim Fitzgerald, AP
Thursday, July 8, 2010

Fla. widow, brother charged in NY hotel heir death

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — The wife of a Florida travel executive who was beaten to death in a suburban New York hotel let the killers into the room and handed them a pillow to put over his face, according to an indictment unsealed Thursday.

The victim was 53-year-old Ben Novack Jr., son of the founder of the storied Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach.

Narcy Novack, 53, her brother and two others were indicted in the July 12, 2009, slaying at the Hilton Rye Town in Rye Brook, 20 miles north of Manhattan.

“The plot that led to the brutal death of Ben Novack was a family affair,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said at a news conference in the federal courthouse in White Plains.

He said investigators are also looking into the death of Ben Novack’s 86-year-old mother, Bernice Novack of Fort Lauderdale. Her death has been ruled an accident, although she suffered a broken jaw and blood was found on her car and the walls of her house.

The indictment in Ben Novack’s slaying says Narcy Novack opened the door to two killers who beat and slashed her husband, and then gave them a pillow to hold over his face as he was being assaulted.

One man who prosecutors say was involved in the attack was not among those indicted and is identified in the indictment only as a coconspirator. That could mean he is cooperating with investigators. Bharara would not say if that man had been charged separately.

Narcy Novack was arrested Thursday at her home in Fort Lauderdale and was arraigned at the federal courthouse there. She did not enter a plea and was held pending a bail hearing set for Wednesday. Her lawyer, Robert Trachman, said she would not block extradition to New York. Her New York lawyer, Howard Tanner, who has asserted her innocence in the past, declined comment.

Ben Novack’s father was the founder and builder of the Fontainebleau, which has been used in such Hollywood films as “Goldfinger” and “Scarface” and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The younger Novack had a multimillion-dollar event-planning company that had organized an Amway convention at the New York hotel. He was found dead in his room there, covered in blood. His face, hands and legs were bound with duct tape. His wife told police she found him that way.

Rye Brook police quickly said Narcy Novack was not a suspect, then backtracked and called her a “person of interest,” claiming she had been “deceptive” in answering questions. They also said Ben Novack had been having an affair.

Federal prosecutors joined the case months later, as family members battled over Novack’s $10 million estate and delayed his burial for nearly two months.

Asked about Narcy Novack’s alleged motive, Bharara said only that prosecutors would be filing papers to keep her from getting the estate, which includes homes, bank accounts, boats, cars and a renowned Batman memorabilia collection.

Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore called the plot “a diabolical plan by a woman who was intent on eliminating her husband and taking his family fortune for her own.”

The indictment alleges a plot by Narcy Novack; her brother, Cristobal Veliz, 56, and Denis Ramirez, 36, both of Brooklyn; and Joel Gonzalez, 25, of Miami, who is a fugitive. They are specifically charged with conspiring to commit interstate domestic violence and stalking. If convicted of all charges, they could be sentenced to life in prison.

Veliz and Ramirez pleaded not guilty at their arraignments in White Plains. Bail was denied for Veliz; Ramirez did not request bail.

The indictment says the plan included a scouting trip to the hotel by Gonzalez and the coconspirator two days before the killing.

On the day of the attack, Ramirez drove Gonzalez and the coconspirator to the hotel and Narcy Novack let them into the Novacks’ room, where they attacked him, the indictment says.

Ben Novack Jr. grew up in the penthouse of the Fontainebleau. From a young age, he had a reputation for abrasiveness, and was an aggressive businessman, building his own business after his father lost the hotel to bankruptcy.

Court papers reveal an eventful marriage to Narcy Novack, a native of Ecuador, including bondage sex games and bouts of violence. They married in 1991.

In 2002, Novack claimed his wife orchestrated a home invasion robbery that left him tied to a chair for 24 hours. Narcy Novack claimed her husband once broke her nose.

Under her husband’s will, Narcy Novack stands to inherit his entire fortune. If she were to lose the estate, most of it would go instead to her daughter, May Abad and trusts for Abad’s two teenage sons.

Associated Press Writer Curt Anderson contributed to this report from Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

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