WORCESTER — Joseph Burke knew exactly how it would all go down, prosecutors say.
The convicted felon would disguise himself as a black man and lie in wait for his target, armed with a Glock handgun he had test-fired to ensure its silence, according to prosecutors. When the target appeared, Burke would aim for center of mass.
“When he goes down, he’s gonna grab his chest,” Burke allegedly told the man he believed was paying him to murder an associate, in an early October meeting. “And I’m gonna walk up, I’m gonna stick it in his mouth, I’m gonna say, ‘Listen, this is for Mike.’ Boop! And the back of his head will be all over the [expletive] place.”
But on Friday, a week before the hit was supposed to go down, federal agents arrested Burke in Boston. The man Burke had thought was hiring him as a contract killer was in fact an FBI agent — as was the associate he allegedly planned to shoot — and his plan was all captured on tape.
Burke, 51, of Everett, was charged in federal court with traveling across state lines and using “facilities of interstate commerce” in the commission of a murder-for-hire plot, according to US Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz’s office and an affidavit filed by FBI Special Agent Benjamin A. Alvis.
Burke appeared before US Magistrate Judge David Hennessy in Worcester Friday afternoon. He talked quietly with his attorney, his hands clasped in front of his face.
The prosecutor said Burke was on federal parole at the time of the offense. He faces up to 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a $250,000 fine. He was held, and is due back in court Oct. 21.
Burke, originally from Charlestown, has a lengthy criminal record as a bank robber. He has been ensnared by undercover agents in the past: He was sentenced to 10 years in prison after taking an undercover agent into a federal prison to set up a cocaine deal in 1993, according to court documents and Globe reports from the time.
In 2012, a 75-year-old Charlestown man died in New York carrying $180,000 in cash that was seized by the federal government as drug money. Burke claimed the money was his and sued, but recovered only about $36,000, records show.
In the current case, federal agents were surveilling Burke at least as early as March, according to Alvis’s affidavit. On March 17, Burke allegedly told an undercover agent that he needed money and might have to commit an armored car robbery. He also allegedly asked the agent to identify wealthy people as potential targets for future robberies.
“You might know some rich people who want to get out of a marriage,” Burke allegedly told the agent, while making a shooting motion with his hand. “That I’ll do all day long. For a price, all day long. Not a problem.”
In September, the agent told Burke that his associate, who was actually another undercover agent, was creating problems for him with the Internal Revenue Service, and Burke allegedly said he had “no qualms” killing the man, the affidavit said.
“I’m gonna [expletive] shoot him in the head,” Burke allegedly said. “[Expletive] gonna hit him right in the [expletive] derby. Three in the derby and three in his chest. Don’t worry, he ain’t getting up.”
The two allegedly agreed that the agent would borrow money from the target to pay for the hit.
“That’s how wiseguys do,” Burke allegedly told the agent. “When the wise guys get clipped . . . you ain't gotta pay it back; he’s gone.”
They later met in Manhattan so that the agent could show Burke the target’s office. Burke had his girlfriend, Lisa Pino, with him, the affidavit said, and he told the agent that Pino would bring guns he planned to buy back to Boston.
Pino is not charged.
On Sept. 25, Burke allegedly told the agent to mail two “black masks” to him, which he planned to use as disguise. In early October, Burke and the agent allegedly decided on the date for the hit: Oct. 17, when the target would be in New York celebrating his mother’s birthday.
Officials on Friday searched the homes of Burke and Pino, as well as Burke’s car, officials and neighbors said. Neighbors said they were shocked by the allegations.
“Murder for hire? Joe wouldn’t do anything like that,” said Michelle Cipriano, who lives in Somerville near Pino. “If he did it I’m shocked. He’s so quiet and nice.”
John R. Ellement of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Evan Allen is at firstname.lastname@example.org.