Spencer: Jury finds three defendants guilty of conspiring to kill prosecutor

November 17, 2010
Santa Paula News

After a short deliberation a jury found three defendants guilty of conspiring to kill a veteran prosecutor in 2004, a case with strong Santa Paula connections.

Jurors also found one of the co-defendants, Sandra Spencer, 43, of Oak View, guilty of solicitation for murder when they returned their verdict November 9.

Spencer, 43, Gonzalo Mesa and Benny Figueroa, both 33, were convicted of conspiring to have Senior Deputy District Attorney Marc Leventhal killed after the prosecutor aggressively prosecuted Spencer’s husband, Anthony Navarro, who also went by Spencer. Leventhal raised Navarro’s bail before Navarro was convicted of real estate fraud and sentenced to 15 years in prison.

One of multiple charges against Navarro resulted from a 2003 transaction that involved a Santa Paula man who gave Navarro $435,000 to buy a Christmas tree farm, a purchase Navarro said he would arrange. Now 49, he pleaded guilty to two dozen fraud charges in May 2004 and was sentenced to serve 15 years in prison for his crimes that prosecutors believed netted more than $2 million.

Navarro also operated a Santa Paula based company called Global Surplus Recovery Inc., and received more than $580,000 in foreclosure surplus money sent to him on behalf of dozens of mostly Latino working class clients, who received only about $100,000 of the proceeds.

The later plot to kill Leventhal ended because Mesa was arrested for bank robbery, and Figueroa for an unrelated crime.

Sandra Spencer earlier pleaded guilty to money laundering in connection with the January 2005 robbery of the Wells Fargo bank in Santa Paula, crimes allegedly committed to help fund the murder of Leventhal. Mesa and Figueroa were also involved in robberies that occurred from December 2004 to March 2005 at banks in Ventura, Camarillo, Thousand Oaks and Santa Paula.

Earlier in the trial, the judge dismissed an attempted murder charge against the three defendants, saying there was insufficient evidence. The trail included testimony from informants that defense attorneys for the defendants noted got “deals” on crimes they committed in exchange for their testimony.

Ventura County Superior Court Judge Charles Campbell set the sentencing for December 10.

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