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Ringleader pleads guilty in robbery that led to comic collector's death

A Rochester, New York, businessman admitted Friday he orchestrated a 2010 home invasion that resulted in the death of a 77-year-old comic book collector.

Although Rico J. Vendetti faced federal murder charges, The Buffalo News reports he pleaded guilty to racketeering for planning the robbery of the $30,000 comic book collection of retired custodian Homer Marciniak, and hiring seven people to pull it off.

Prosecutors contend that Vendetti had long operated an eBay scam in which he hired “professional boosters” to steal $665,000 in merchandise from stores in the region and then sell it to him for 25 cents on the dollar. He in turn would list the items on Craiglist and eBay, earning an estimated $42,000 a month.

Vendetti allegedly had a similar scheme in mind when he learned about the classic comic collection of Marciniak, a well-liked man who lived alone in the village of Medina, New York. Authorities say the hired criminals cut the phone line to Marciniak's house on July 5, 2010, only to be confronted by him once they were inside. The burglars beat the homeowner and knocked him to the floor, and made off with the comics, safes, cash, coins and guns.

Although Marciniak suffered only cuts and bruises from the attack, and was able to give a statement to police, he died hours later from a heart attack.

Vendetti, a restaurant and tavern owner who once operated a collectibles store, was arrested along with seven others within a few months. The U.S. Attorney stepped in to file murder charges against Vendetti and four of his co-defendants, arguing that the burglary led to Marciniak’s death.

As a result of his plea, the 44-year-old Vendetti will likely face 20 years in prison.

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