The inmate received a Valentine’s Day card at the Middlesex House of Correction in Billerica with a letter tucked inside containing information about snow-removal services and directing future correspondence to a post office box in Manchester, N.H.
Andrew S. Gordon, 52, allegedly believed the card and others like it came from a gang member on the run named Rico Silva, who was willing to kill someone for him. The innocuous messages were code for murder.
Silva, however, was a fictitious identity created by federal investigators who communicated with Gordon between Feb. 10 and Tuesday, according to an affidavit filed in US District Court in Boston and made public Friday.
From December until a new charge was filed this week, federal prosecutors allege, Gordon plotted to have someone kill a State Police trooper and a man expected to testify against Gordon in a separate murder-for-hire case involving his estranged wife.
The plan, prosecutors said, included cryptic instructions about how the men should die. In one note, “An accident like a house fire” was written next to the civilian’s name, while the words, “Line of duty,” were written next to the trooper’s name, the affidavit said.
The code that investigators used to communicate with Gordon referred to the targets as “snow,” according to the affidavit written by Brian Oppedisano, a special agent with the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.
One letter addressed to the post office box and intercepted by investigators on March 3 was written in block letters and read in part, “TAKE CARE OF BOTH SNOW JOBS SOON. NO TIME TO LOSE... PAY AFTER COMPLETION OF AT LEAST ONE. SEND PROOF.”
Gordon, a financial adviser from Chelmsford, appeared briefly Friday before Magistrate Judge Judith G. Dein, where he faced a charge of using interstate commerce facilities for committing a murder-for-hire. The crime carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
Dressed in black, pinstriped pants, white shirt, and black dress shoes, Gordon conferred with his lawyer during the hearing, but did not enter a plea. He is being held without bail on state charges and is due back in federal court May 14.
Defense attorney Robert L. Sheketoff declined to comment.
Gordon was arrested Sept. 19 after Middlesex County prosecutors alleged he offered a hit man $20,000 to kill his estranged wife. In that case, state prosecutors said, he met with an undercover trooper posing as a contract killer, at one point revising his request and asking that his wife be injured so she would miss a court hearing.
He pleaded not guilty to the accusation he solicited someone to kill his wife and is due back in Middlesex Superior Court on May 26.
While being held without bail on the case involving his wife, Gordon asked an inmate if he knew someone who was willing to kill the trooper who posed as the hit man and another person who cooperated with police, Oppedisano wrote.
Gordon told the inmate he was furious about being set up and wanted the trooper and the other person killed to weaken the case, Oppedisano wrote. He agreed to pay $15,000 for the killings, Oppedisano wrote.
The inmate responded that he had a cousin in a gang who could commit the murders. He then disclosed Gordon’s plot to his defense attorney and agreed to cooperate with investigators, saying he “did not want a policeman to get hurt or killed,” Oppedisano wrote.
The inmate is referred to in the affidavit as a cooperating witness and is not named. The Globe is withholding the names of the trooper and the targeted man at the request of State Police and Middlesex County prosecutors, who expressed concerns for their safety.
Gordon gave the inmate notes to pass to Silva in which he gave information about the trooper’s age, appearance, and a silver Ford F-150 truck he believed the officer drove, Oppedisano wrote. He provided similar details about the witness.
On Feb. 10, investigators posing as Silva wrote their first letter to Gordon. The letter, placed in a Valentine card, included the address for a post office box in New Hampshire to reach Silva, Oppedisano wrote.
The coded letter read that Silva “knew that [Gordon] has a ‘problem’ and that [Silva] needs ‘work’ and gets paid to ‘remove snow,’” the affidavit said.
From Feb. 25 to March 26, nine letters were sent to the post office box, Oppedisano wrote. In all, investigators sent four greeting cards to Gordon and provided him with a telephone number and PIN that he could use to reach Silva, Oppedisano wrote.
But Gordon, worried about recorded jail calls, hesitated to use the telephone number. On April 6, investigators posing as Silva took a call from the inmate who was cooperating with them. The inmate said Gordon was standing a foot away and relaying information to Silva, Oppedisano wrote. Gordon also wore latex gloves when handling his correspondence.
On Tuesday, Gordon received a final communication from Silva, a “Congratulations” greeting card, informing him that the second person he wanted dead had been killed. The letter asked, “Do you want to wait a week to buy truck?” code for killing the trooper.
After receiving the card, Gordon spoke with the inmate who was cooperating with investigators and wearing a recording device, Oppedisano wrote. During the conversation, Gordon told the inmate he heard from Silva, that he hoped the man’s death “appeared to be an accident,” and that he “wanted the cop killed and that the body not be found.”
The inmate told Gordon that killing the trooper would be more difficult because he has a firearm, Oppedisano wrote.
“Unless he does it at the house . . . unless he follows him home,” Gordon said. “He sent a picture. He knows who he is.”
That day, investigators took Gordon to an interview room and said he was suspected of plotting to have the men killed. Gordon said he was “shocked.” He was charged the next day.