Local merchant accused in murder-for-hire plot

A New Rochelle businessman was arrested Thursday morning and charged with trying to hire a hitman to kill a former business partner, authorities say.

According to federal prosecutors, Anthony Piliero, the owner of a cell phone store on Main Street, paid a friend he believed had mafia connections to hire a hitman to kill a former business partner from Connecticut. Authorities say the motive behind Piliero's actions was to collect $1 million in life insurance policy, which he took out on his partner in 1999.

FBI investigators say the hitman was supposed to receive $100,000 of the insurance payout once the business partner was dead.

Piliero's friend was supposed to provide the hitman with a handgun and allegedly instructed him to "make every bullet count," officials say. However, just days before the hit, which was scheduled for January, the middle man was arrested after the hitman turned out to be an FBI informant.

New Rochelle entrepreneurs were stunned to learn about Piliero's arrest, saying the 47-year-old man had a great reputation in the community.

Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Jim Killorian says Piliero always gave to charity and helped his fellow merchants.

Piliero was released after posting a $1 million bail. His next court appearance is scheduled for June 1.

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