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Murder-for-hire sniffed out, FBI says

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

Joe Passalaqua suspected a relative of a violent crime victim would want those responsible dead. So he offered to do the job for $30,000, federal authorities said. But Passalaqua said the relative had to get the gun, and that he’d need practice time to “get the feel of the kick and to make sure of the accuracy,” tapes of a secretly recorded conversation reveal.

The pancake house where FBI agents arrested Passalaqua

The murders wouldn’t even be discovered right away: The targets would “just be missing,” he said.

When Passalaqua, 55, showed up to hash out the final details, agents were waiting.

Federal authorities wouldn’t identify the victim or the relative, nor would they say crime Passalaqua sought to avenge when he first approached the relative in July and provided “specific details of the crime” and IDs of the four alleged bandits he offered to whack.

The two got together again on Sept. 13 in a diner in Edison. Passalaqua insisted they be alone, that they communicate only by writing notes, and that all cellphones be turned off, said Weysan Dun, Special Agent in Charge of the New Jersey FBI office.

That day, Passalaqua set a price of $30,000 for the murders of three of the four, with a downpayment of half the cash.

The fourth target would be handled “when he comes back, everything is the same,” a complaint quotes him as saying. The FBI didn’t elaborate.

Passalaqua also insisted the relative provide a revolver, preferably a .357 or 40-caliber, with hollow-point bullets, if possible.

Depending on when he got his down payment, Passalaqua said he could commit the murders within two weeks of the Sept. 13th.

Passalaqua bragged of “103 of these that I’ve done in my life. One hundred and three,” the complaint says. “It’s got to be something personal like, where somebody did something bad to somebody that the police can’t help them.”

Ten days later, Passalaqua met with the relative in the parking lot of a pancake house on St. Georges Avenue in the Colonia section of Woodbridge. He took the $15,000 and was immediately swarmed by FBI agents, Dun said.

“This case is frightening, to say the least,” Dun said. “To think that someone would market themselves to victims of a crime in an offer to commit cold-blooded murder is disturbing on many levels.

“Fortunately, the people Mr. Passalaqua approached brought this to our attention and we were able to protect the safety of all involved,” he added.

“We all owe a debt of gratitude to the FBI agents of our Franklin Township Resident Agency, the investigators from the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s office, and the Woodbridge and Sayreville police departments who were all equally instrumental in the successful outcome of this matter,” Dun said.

Passalaqua remains in federal custody.

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