Ex-AFG CEO Hand Pleads Guilty to Plot to Kill Witness

Ex-AFG Financial Group Inc. Chief Executive Officer Aaron Hand, already imprisoned for his role in a fraudulent $100 million mortgage scheme, pleaded guilty today to plotting to kill a witness who testified against him.

Hand, 40, sentenced in 2010 to as long as 25 years in prison, pleaded guilty today before Judge Laura Ward in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan to one count of conspiracy to commit murder.

Hand, who faces 8 1/2 to 16 years in prison on this plea, is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 6, prosecutors said in a statement. His sentence is to run consecutive with the one is he already serving, according to prosecutors.

“The defendant’s actions strike at the heart of the justice system,” Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. said today in a statement. “Nothing is more important than the safety of witnesses.”

Hand pleaded not guilty when he was charged in October. His lawyer at the time, Kevin Canfield, said his client was entrapped by the police.

“Entrapment is an extremely difficult affirmative defense,” Hand’s lawyer, Lee Ginsberg, said outside court today. “This was a more appropriate way to resolve the situation.”

Hand was the mastermind of a mortgage scheme that defrauded Bank of America Corp., Wells Fargo & Co. and other banks, according to Vance’s office, which said it won convictions against all 27 people charged.

In August, an investigator with the district attorney’s office received a tip that Hand, while incarcerated at New York State Coxsackie Correctional Facility, was attempting to arrange the murder of a witness who testified against him during a nine-week trial in July 2010, according to the October statement.

The case is People v. Hand, 4870/2011, New York Supreme Court (Manhattan).

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