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N.Y. Police ID Suspect in Jeweler’s Death

April 8, 2005

NEW YORK (AP) _ A man behind bars in a Bronx shooting was accused Friday of gunning down a jeweler last year on a busy sidewalk near the Diamond District in a suspected murder-for-hire.

Carlos Fortier, 36, pleaded not guilty to murder. He could get life in prison.

Investigators are exploring the possibility that Fortier was hired to kill the jeweler, police spokesman Paul Browne said. He would not elaborate.

The victim, Eduard Nektalov, 46, worked on the bustling one-block cluster of jewelry outlets, where tourists search for bargains and Orthodox Jewish vendors conduct business in Yiddish.

At the time of his death, he was awaiting trial with his father on federal charges they helped launder drug money for Colombian dealers at their jewelry business.

A gunman dressed in black shot him in the back of the head last May without saying a word, then tucked his weapon away and vanished into a crowd.

Police had been looking into whether the slaying was connected to the money-laundering case, and had also theorized that it may have been a hit ordered by the Russian mob.

Police identified Fortier as the prime suspect based on a match of .45-caliber shell casings found both at the scene of the unrelated _ and seemingly random _ Bronx shooting and the Diamond District slaying. Five witnesses, including a retired police officer, picked him out of lineups as the gunman, police said.

In the Bronx case, Fortier was charged with attempted murder for allegedly firing several rounds at someone on the street last August.

Police said Fortier has a long criminal record, including a manslaughter conviction. A call to his attorney was not immediately returned.

Last July, a jury acquitted Nektalov’s father, Roman Nektalov, 75, of money laundering and other charges alleging he sold gold to Colombian drug dealers during a sting operation. He was convicted on a charge involving a diamond sale and was awaiting sentencing.

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