PROVIDENCE — An unlicensed contractor nicknamed “Amigo” is accused of trying to hire a hitman to torture and kill another contractor and a man he thought was an employee, claiming they owed him $8,500.
Agustin Vinas, 51, owner of Vinas Construction in Providence, is being held without bail in federal custody, after an investigation that found he offered to pay $3,000 to kill both men, and another $500 to make the bodies “disappear,” the U.S. Attorney’s office announced Monday.
However, the man he thought was a hitman was actually an undercover cop, who asked Vinas repeatedly whether he was sure he wanted to go through with the killings, according to an affidavit accompanying an arrest warrant filed in U.S. District Court in Providence. Vinas said he was “a hundred percent sure,” saying he’d sign a written contract with the hitman if he had to, adding, “I want you to make that guy disappear,” according to court records.
The contractor Vinas allegedly wanted to kill told Globe Rhode Island on Monday that he did not know his life was in danger until FBI agents paid his family a visit late last week.
“I’m happy that it was them taking care of us,” said the contractor’s wife, translating for her husband, who asked for anonymity out of concerns for the family’s safety. “We had no idea of it. We were surprised and scared that this was going to happen.”
Vinas did not work for his intended victim’s company, the contractor said. He had referred Vinas to a friend for an $11,000 plumbing job in 2019. The friend paid Vinas $8,000 as a down payment, but Vinas didn’t finish the work, so the friend hired someone else, the contractor said.
“We are guessing that is the reason he got mad,” the contractor’s wife said.
The contractor said he had no relationship or contact with Vinas and there was no indication that Vinas was allegedly plotting to harm him. “He was just working and doing his job and never had a confrontation,” the wife said. “That’s what makes it scary. We have two kids. Now, I’m watching and looking everywhere.”
Vinas’ residential license expired in May 2019; his company also had a violation, according to the state Contractors and Registration and Licensing Board.
Last month, Vinas happened to run into an acquaintance in Central Falls and said that the contractor owed him money and had threatened to harm his family if he didn’t stop asking for payment, according to the affidavit. Vinas claimed that he’d completed a job for the contractor and was owed $8,500. Now, he wanted the contractor and one of his employees tortured and killed, according to the affidavit.
The acquaintance said he would help, and then notified the FBI. While under surveillance by the FBI Rhode Island Safe Streets Task Force, the acquaintance and Vinas met in the parking lot of a Family Dollar store in Providence. The acquaintance secretly recorded a conversation with Vinas, who offered $3,000 for a hitman to kill the two men and $500 to get rid of the bodies, according to the affidavit: “I want you guys to make that person disappear, you understand me? If you get rid of the body it is better so there is no evidence. ... I want to torture them first and then kill them.”
The acquaintance ended up introducing Vinas to the “hitman,” who is actually an undercover cop. Vinas told them who he wanted to kill, gave the “hitman” the contractor’s cellphone number, address, and a description of his vehicle, saying he was the primary target. The other man was secondary, but would be easy to kill, he said, according to court records.
Vinas met with the “hitman” twice more last week, to pay a total of $300 for the killings and to show that he could pay the remaining $2,700 when the job was finished.
Vinas was arrested by members of the FBI Rhode Island Safe Streets Task Force on Friday on a federal criminal complaint charging him with use of interstate commerce facilities in the commission of murder-for-hire.