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Elmhurst landlord hired pair to kill tenants: DA

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An Elmhurst landlord was arrested Saturday for allegedly hiring two of his tenants to kill two longtime residents of the same building so he could get more money out of their rent-controlled apartment, authorities said.

But the brothers who live in the third-floor apartment survived the early-morning March 4 assault, and the three men believed to have plotted their demise landed in jail instead of landing a lucrative new tenant, the Queens district attorney said.

Juan Basagoitia, of 40-18 Ithaca St. was arraigned Sunday in Queens Criminal Court on charges of burglary, assault, criminal possession of a weapon and conspiracy for allegedly hiring David Robles, 36, and Danny Machuca, 28, to kill their upstairs neighbors, a spokesman for DA Richard Brown said.

Robles and Machuca, also of 40-18 Ithaca St., had been arraigned March 5 on charges of attempted murder, burglary, assault and criminal possession of a weapon, the spokesman said.

Basagoitia was ordered held without bail, while Robles and Machuca remained in custody with bail set at $200,000.

According to the criminal complaint filed by the DA's office, Basagoitia agreed to pay Robles $2,500 to "take out" brothers David and William Lavery, who live together in the third-floor apartment directly about the second-floor unit shared by Robles and Machuca.

Although law enforcement sources said the Lavery brothers were only paying $400 a month for their two-bedroom apartment, which is protected by the city's rent-control laws, Basagoitia believed he could get as much as $1,400 for it once the apartment was vacated by the longtime tenants, the complaint said.

Allegedly instructed by Basagoitia to "get rid of" the brothers, Robles and Machuca climbed up the fire escape and into the apartment through a kitchen window around 2:30 a.m. on March 4, the complaint said. David Lavery yelled for his brother after Robles allegedly sliced him with a knife, and a struggle broke out before the two intruders fled the apartment the same way they came, according to the complaint.

Both brothers were rushed to Elmhurst Hospital Center and underwent surgery to treat extensive stab wounds, the complaint said. They were released from the hospital on Monday, a spokeswoman said.

Detectives who searched the second-floor apartment found a knife, blood-stained clothes and gloves with blood on them, the complaint said.

Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

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