BOSTON (AP) – A man who tried to pay a gang member $2,000 to kill his estranged wife, mother-in-law and 9-year-old daughter pleaded guilty Wednesday to murder-for-hire charges in a deal that could send him to prison for 12 years.

John Orlowski, 49, was charged in May after the plot was uncovered when the mother of the gang member called the FBI.

During a change-of-plea hearing in U.S. District Court, Orlowski acknowledged asking Michael Reed, a self-described member of the Crips gang, to kill his family.

Reed, who has a lengthy criminal record, was troubled by the plan, especially the thought of killing a 9-year-old girl, so he told his mother, who called the FBI, according to an affidavit filed by an FBI agent.

Assistant U.S. Attorney James Lang said prosecutors and Orlowski’s defense attorney have agreed on a sentencing recommendation of 12 years. U.S. District Judge Reginald Lindsay said he’d issue his sentence on May 27. The judge is not bound by the plea deal but is likely to follow it.

Orlowski’s lawyer, James Roche, said the plea agreement also resolves numerous state charges against the Beverly resident, including four violations of a restraining order taken out against him by his wife, assault and battery and weapons charges.

Roche said he believes terms of the deal reflect the magnitude of what his client has been accused of. “He’s genuinely remorseful,” the attorney said.

Orlowski met Reed while in county jail after his second arrest for violating a restraining order taken out by his wife.

Orlowski initially offered Reed $500 to plant drugs on his wife, saying if she were arrested he would get their house in a divorce. He later increased the offer to $2,000 and asked the man to kill his wife, mother-in-law and daughter, according to the FBI affidavit.

Reed agreed to work with the FBI and taped a conversation in which Orlowski allegedly gave him specific instructions on how to kill his family. Orlowski said he wanted his wife and mother-in-law each shot twice in the head, but asked that his daughter be shot once in the chest so she could have an open casket at her funeral, according to the FBI affidavit.

During the recorded conversation, Reed repeatedly said he was concerned that Orlowski might regret the killing of his daughter. Orlowski assured him he would not regret it, saying, “It’s got more to do with my wife than anything.”

Orlowski allegedly gave him a diagram of his wife’s Beverly house, indicating the location of bedrooms and where he could find a pistol.

In January 2007, Orlowski was arrested at his wife’s home and charged with violating a restraining order, domestic assault and battery and unlawful storage of firearms. Police seized 121 guns owned by Orlowski.

He was arrested a second time a month later at his wife’s home and charged again with violating the restraining order and unlawful possession of a machine gun.

Editor’s Note: Denise Lavoie is a Boston-based reporter covering the courts and legal issues. She can be reached at dlavoie(at)

AP-ES-02-27-08 1805EST

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