DA: Man lured by escort, held captive for retirement money in dungeon resembling 'scene from Dexter'
Escort Jennifer Konopki, 26, was convicted in absentia after she fled, the defendants' counsel fell ill and a hurricane disrupted the proceedings.
An escort and her boyfriend's cousin were today convicted for their roles in a 2008 plot to lure a 66-year-old man to Philadelphia, imprison and torture him in a basement dungeon police described as "a scene from Dexter" and steal his retirement funds.
Prosecutors said 26-year-old Jennifer Konopki, of Dallas, Pa., plotted with her boyfriend, Brandon Lee, 30, and his cousin, Joseph Holmes, also 30, to lure 66-year-old Robert Moir to Philadelphia. Konopki met Moir, who the District Attorney's Office described as "a lonely older man," through her work as an escort and had for years been manipulating him into giving her money.
Around Oct. 24, 2008, Konopki told Moir that she and her baby were stranded in Philadelphia and needed a ride back to Wilkes-Barre. After Moir arrived, Konopki convinced him to take her shopping, then drive her to what she claimed was her uncle's house in Feltonville, where she said they could pick up her child.
When Moir entered the home, he was assaulted by two masked men - later identified as Lee and Holmes - who shoved a pillowcase over his head, stripped and gagged him and took him to "a dungeon like basement," the District Attorney's Office said. There, they handcuffed, hogtied, beat and pistol-whipped Moir as all three defendants demanded access to his retirement money.
The trio made away with Moir's ATM card, draining it at a number of locations. But while they were out, an unknown young man inside the home apparently took pity on the retiree, untying him, dressing him as best he could and leading to the door. Prosecutors said he told Moir, "Get out of here - they are going to kill you when they get back."
Officials with the Highway Patrol Unit, the 25th District and the East Detective Division were almost immediately able to find the victim's car and the gun used in the crime: a Tech 9 that "resembled a small machine gun," according to the District Attorney's Office. Evidence in the case against the three defendants included post-arrest prison letters and phone tapes discussing the plot.
Lee pleaded guilty in January of 2011 to aggravated assault, robbery, criminal conspiracy, kidnapping for ransom and carrying an unlicensed firearm. He was sentenced to multiple five-to-15 year sentences, to be served concurrently at the State Correctional Institute in Graterford, Pa.
Holmes, who is currently incarcerated at the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility, was today found guilty of aggravated assault, robbery, criminal conspiracy, kidnapping for ransom, carrying a prohibited firearm and possession of an instrument of crime. His sentencing has been deferred until Feb. 7. Holmes is already serving life in prison after being convicted in June 2011 of first-degree murder for the death of 25-year-old Donovan Weary, who was shot twice in the head in West Oak Lane nearly five years ago.
Still, the case was not without its challenges. "This trial took over three weeks," a release from the District Attorney's Office stated. "During which time defendant Konopki fled and had to be tried in absentia, defense counsel was hospitalized and a hurricane shut down the proceedings."
Konopki was convicted of aggravated assault, robbery, criminal conspiracy, kidnapping for ransom and possessing an instrument of crime. A bench warrant was issued for her arrest after she failed to appear for a Nov. 1 court date. Her sentencing has been deferred until Feb. 7.