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Plea deal says robbery turned deadly

A New Port Richey man admits in the agreement that he conspired with a Chicago man to steal the jewelry of a 78-year-old, including her 8-carat diamond ring. She was killed in the robbery.

By CHRISTOPHER GOFFARD

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 8, 2000


Ottavio Volpe, the owner of a New Port Richey bakery who is facing charges linked to the 1997 slaying of a Gulf Harbors woman, has acknowledged hatching a robbery scheme that led to her death.

In a plea agreement filed Wednesday with the U.S. Attorney's Office, Volpe, 41, admitted he conspired with Anthony Carcione, a Chicago man, to steal the jewelry of 78-year-old Jean Schwarzkopf, including an 8-carat diamond ring she wore.

Carcione flew from Chicago to Tampa International Airport on Sept. 18, 1997, and he and Volpe plotted the robbery over drinks, according to the plea agreement. The next day, with the idea that Carcione would pose as a flower-delivery man to get inside Schwarzkopf's house, Volpe bought him flowers and gardening gloves at Publix, then bought duct tape at Scotty's hardware, according to the plea.

In the plea, Volpe says he dropped Carcione off a half-block from Schwarzkopf's house, telling him not to harm her, and that after Carcione emerged with the woman's valuables -- including the ring, a diamond tennis bracelet, her credit cards and wallet -- he claimed he had not hurt her.

Schwarzkopf was later found dead, gagged and bound in her Topsail Trail home.

When Carcione later confided to Volpe that he killed her, the plea says, Carcione threatened to kill Volpe and Volpe's girlfriend if he revealed what occurred. Volpe admitted that he later pocketed about $4,000 from the sale of the stolen goods.

Volpe has agreed to plead guilty to federal charges of interstate transportation in aid of racketeering, as well as conspiracy to commit robbery and launder money, charges that could carry a maximum term of life imprisonment. In exchange for the plea, and for his cooperation in the case, the U.S. Attorney's Office will not oppose Volpe's lawyer asking a judge for a lighter sentence.

Another defendant in the case, Faris Rafidi, 26, a Chicago man, admitted to buying the diamond ring from Carcione and pleaded guilty in May to a charge of conspiracy to transport stolen goods.

The focus now shifts to Carcione, who has not entered a plea deal, and who still faces charges he conspired to rob Schwarzkopf and killed her to keep her quiet. He could face life in prison on the federal charges.

Pasco County prosecutors say they are waiting for the federal case to be resolved before filing state charges in the case.

-- Christopher Goffard covers courts in west Pasco County. He can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6236 or (800) 333-7505, ext. 6236. His e-mail address is goffard@sptimes.com.

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