A one-time online retail superstar who relocated to Arizona a few years ago amid a string of high dollar court judgments against his businesses pleaded guilty last week in a bizarre case involving an attempted murder-for-hire.
Justin Nicola Ligeri will be sentenced April 29 in Maricopa County Superior Court for Attempted Stalking with Fear of Physical Injury, a Class 6 felony. Three other felonies, including conspiracy to commit aggravated assault, will be dismissed by Judge Scott Minder as part of a plea deal negotiated last week.
But first, the judge is slated to decide Thursday whether Ligeri’s conditions of release should be amended prior to sentencing. This would allow Ligeri, 44, more freedom to travel in the next few weeks.
In 2011, Ligeri became the first person to sell more than $1 million worth of product on Amazon in a single day. He was later recognized as number one of Inc. Magazine’s 500 lists of fastest-growing private companies
Since then, Ligeri and his various companies have been the subject of at least five civil judgments across the country, including ones for nearly $1.3 million, $980,829, $967,000, and $720,000.
On March 18 of last year, the Mesa Police Department received a report that Ligeri offered to hire a former employee to attack two Arizona business associates – John Andrew Burns and Joshua Dean Tischer – in connection to a separate $2 million dispute with his company Cheyenne Brands.
Recorded phone calls and text message records played a key role in the investigation, according to court documents. One such call between Ligeri and Tischer was described by Mesa Det. R. O’Sullivan who heard Ligeri’s comments about murder.
“You must have factored the possibility that I can commit murder, right? Like you thought of that right?” Ligeri asked Tischer. He also commented to Tischer about his anger toward Burns, stating that another possibility is “I lose it tonight. There is a possibility I take a bat to his head to his skull that’s a possibility. Doesn’t he understand that possibility?”
In the same call, Ligeri says to Tischer, “You stole my company, and I am gonna try to get it back legally and the very last straw if I can’t get it back legally, you will see me snap and things will happen.” He added that “Bad people things will happen to people, that’s all I can say okay?”
In a different recorded call with another business associate, Ligeri made several comments about his willingness to commit murder-suicide if the business dispute was not resolved in his favor.
“You will have the most unbelievable trauma and sadness in your life that you f***** with me,” Ligeri says, “I am willing to murder myself and you, Do you understand that? Do you understand the concept that I am willing to kill you to not let this happen.”
Another key piece of evidence is a phone call detectives recorded March 19 ,2021 between Ligeri and Eric Carl Ivanov, who used to work for Ligeri. Ivanov claimed Ligeri called him the night before wanting Burns and Tischer killed that same night, but Ivanov put him off.
When Ivanov and Ligeri talked the next day by phone, O’Sullivan was listening in. The police report notes Ligeri makes several more comments about his interest in having Burns and Tischer assaulted. And he is willing to pay Ivanov for doing the “job.”
“I don’t want to kill anybody. I’d love to see, you know a broken jaw, a broken rib or whatever. I would pay for that, you know what I mean?” Ligeri told Ivanov. “I’m just trying to make the point that don’t f***with me, you know what I mean?”
On March 24, 2021, investigators spoke with Burns, who reported he too had been threatened by Ligeri a week earlier. In one text message, Ligeri wrote “Feel like digging up cemetery plots right now” and “you warred with the wrong man Johnny boy.”
Burns shared a recorded conversation between Ligeri and yet another business associate who Ligeri purportedly threatened in the past. In that call, Ligeri describes a scenario where he will “put a gun in John Burns’ mouth, that is a choice I will make” if he fails at regaining control of his company’s assets.
In another exchange with Ivanov, Ligeri notes he should have the money the next day so they need to figure out how to explain the payment.
“I feel like Michael Corleone at the end of the Godfather I’m just cleaning up everything,” Ligeri wrote.
Ligeri was taken into custody in California on Mesa PD’s arrest warrant. He waived extradition and was transferred to the Maricopa County jail in June 2021. A $50,000 bond secured Ligeri’s pretrial release but he was required to remain in Arizona.
Eventually Ligeri secured a court order to move back to California subject to electronic monitoring. His release conditions and alleged non-compliance with such were the subject of several hearings.
During an Oct 25 hearing, Judge Minder revoked Ligeri’s permission to reside in California, citing “a change in circumstance due to the Defendant not having followed his prior release terms.” It appears Ligeri’s travel to Las Vegas to take part in the 2021 World Series of Poker may have precipitated the judge’s order.
Tournament records show Ligeri played at least one round of $25,000 High Roller No-Limit, winning a pot of 310,000 chips.
Then in November the judge granted Ligeri’s renewed request to live in California over the objection of prosecutor Neha Bhatia with the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office.
Ligeri entered his guilty plea March 24. A week earlier, he posted about his case on Change.org, addressing the criminal charges and describing what he says led to his “emotional outburst” related to the business dispute over Cheyenne Brands.
According to Ligeri, when COVID-19 hit his CFO “politely urged me to lay everyone off and keep my last couple million dollars until we knew what was going on with the world.”
Instead, Ligeri wrote that he put “the last of my personal money into my company with 0 sales” in order to not be “the guy to put employees out of work during a pandemic.” But then some of his employees “returned the favor by robbing my company,” Ligeri wrote. This included, he alleges, emptying his warehouse and embezzling company revenue.
A lawsuit Ligeri filed on behalf of Cheyenne Brands against Burns, Tischer, and others has been placed on the dismissal calendar.