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Contract Killings


Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Narayan Thadani,Douglas Enor Tobar were arrested in connection with the alleged contract killings.

Two Houston-area residents accused of hiring local men to kill a Detroit couple over a real-estate deal in India could face the federal death penalty.
Retired engineer Narayan Thadani, 60, of Richmond and his 40-year-old Houston landscaper, Douglas Enor Tobar, were arrested over the weekend in connection with the alleged contract killings.They are charged with conspiracy to murder and use of interstate commerce facilities in the commission of murder-for-hire.Under federal guidelines, a conviction on the conspiracy charge brings up to life in prison. The murder-for-hire charge carries a potential death sentence.Both men made their first appearance Tuesday in Houston federal court.
Last week, Michigan police stopped Nelson Mendoza, 34, of Houston, who was driving a Chrysler with a Texas license plate in the town of Taylor, a Detroit bedroom community. Miguel Angel Servando, 40, of Katy, was a passenger.In a criminal complaint filed Monday at the federal courthouse in Detroit, an FBI agent wrote that officers seized a handgun, ski mask and bloody latex gloves from the car along with a blood-smeared envelope with the names of a couple and a hand-drawn diagram of the interior of a residence.Less than an hour after the traffic stop, Brij Chhabra, 65, and his wife, Aasha Chhabra, 56, were found dead in their suburban Detroit home.
According to Detroit FBI Agent Sean M. Callaghan's affidavit, Servando and Mendoza traveled from Texas to Michigan to commit the execution-style killings at the behest of Tobar and Thadani. Thadani supposedly asked Tobar many times if he could help "get rid" of the Michigan husband and wife, according to the document.
Servando and Mendoza were charged with two counts of first-degree murder and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony. Both men, originally from El Salvador, have pleaded not guilty.Kent Schaffer, a Houston lawyer retained by Thadani, said his client is innocent and never met with Servando or Mendoza.
"He didn't do it. He didn't hire anybody. He didn't solicit anybody," Schaffer said after Tuesday afternoon's hearing.
Tobar was not represented in court Tuesday, but told U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephen Smith he'd like an opportunity to hire a lawyer. Tobar is scheduled to return to court today.
Thadani, a friend of Aasha Chhabra's father, was supposed to invest about $2 million she made from the sale of her family's home in India. The woman, who was in declining health due to multiple sclerosis, handed authority to Thadani to ensure that her daughter, now 21, would inherit the money and so that it wouldn't be spent by her husband, Schaffer said.When Thadani did not forward as much as $1.5 million still owed the woman, the Chhabras sued him in Tarrant County. Schaffer said Brij Chhabra was managing the civil lawsuit.Shortly before their slayings, the couple apparently received a document that supported their case.Schaffer said there's no link between the civil lawsuit and this criminal case because the money has been frozen since 2006."There was no big development in the case that was going to change the nature of the litigation," Schaffer said. "It's not as if our client receives the money. The money still goes to the daughter. ... (Thadani) had absolutely no reason in the world to want to see them dead."Tobar and Thadani will remain at the federal detention center in downtown Houston until at least Monday, the day Smith set a hearing to determine whether the government has probable cause for the charges and if the men will be released on bail. Tobar and Thadani are being held pending extradition to Michigan. The case will be tried in Detroit, where the complaint was filed, Smith said, unless either man pleads guilty and prosecutors agree to resolve that case in Houston.Tobar told the judge he was a married father of two who owned his landscaping company. Neighbors described Thadani as a shy but friendly bachelor who built a palatial garden in his backyard that mirrored the elaborate interior of his upscale 5,500-square-foot home.

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