by William Glaberson, New York Times
A Queens man was arrested yesterday in what federal prosecutors
said was a conspiracy to take out life insurance policies on
Guyanese immigrants and then have them killed to collect the
proceeds. According to the complaint filed yesterday, the
conspirators killed at least two people and collected hundreds of
thousands of dollars.
Investigators said they were examining numerous other deaths of
Guyanese in New York and that more charges could follow.
The man arrested yesterday, Ronald Mallay, 57, was identified
by prosecutors as an accomplice of Richard James, an insurance
agent in Richmond Hill, Queens, who was arrested in June.
Both men are originally from Guyana, and Mr. James is known
among Guyanese in New York as a producer of television programs
for a Guyanese cable channel.
The complaint said that Mr. James wrote policies on each of the
men who were killed and that he, Mr. Mallay and others collected
the proceeds. It was not clear yesterday whether the victims knew
about the insurance policies.
Mr. Mallay did not enter any plea yesterday and was held for a
bail hearing that is scheduled Friday. His lawyer did not respond
to a telephone call seeking comment.
A lawyer for Mr. James, Steven Zissou, said yesterday that his
client was innocent and would be vindicated. The charge facing Mr.
James, conspiring to travel and use the mail to commit murder,
could lead to the death penalty.
In their complaint, federal prosecutors in Brooklyn said
investigators worked with at least two informants, who were not
named. In a conversation between Mr. Mallay and one of the
informants that was tape-recorded by investigators in September,
the informant told Mr. Mallay he was interested in killing someone
for a fee as part of the insurance scheme, the prosecutors
Quoting from the transcripts, the complaint said the informant
asked Mr. Mallay: "What's the best way to get rid of someone?
Remember you told me accidents were better." According to the
complaint, Mr. Mallay answered: "Accidents are better. Harder to
The papers filed yesterday concerned a killing in Queens in
1998 and one in Guyana in 1999. The charges said Mr. Mallay took
the other informant to Smokey Oval, a park in Richmond Hill, in
1997 or 1998 to point out a victim, who appeared to be
The informant backed out, the authorities said, but the man the
two men observed, Basdeo Somaipersaud, was found dead in the park
on Jan. 23, 1998, the complaint said. The cause of death was
listed as ingestion of alcohol and drugs.
The second victim, Hardeo Sewnanan, was killed in June 1999 in
Port Mourant, Guyana, according to the prosecutors. The cause of
his death was listed as ingestion of alcohol and ammonia.
The prosecutors said one of the two informants was paid $11,000
to kill the man in Port Mourant, but did not carry it out. The
complaint said Mr. Mallay told the other informant that a cousin
of Mr. Malley killed the man by poisoning him.
The case began with an anonymous call to MetLife Insurance
Company saying an insurance agent in Queens was involved in a
conspiracy to kill people after writing policies for them.
After an investigation, the complaint said, the insurance
company concluded that the rate of death claims of people insured
under policies brokered by Mr. James was 318 percent higher than
expected "and that a large number of the deaths were violent" or
involved "unusual circumstances."