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Former Coast Guard Boss Guilty In Keys Murder Plot

MIAMI (CBSMiami) -- Retired Coast Guard commander Dennis Zecca admitted Monday morning in Miami federal court that he hired what he believed to be a hit man to kill one of the biggest realtors and developers in the Florida Keys.

"Is it true," U.S. District Court Judge Jose Martinez, asked Zecca, after the prosecutor detailed the charges against him.

"Yes, your honor," Zecca replied in a clear strong voice.

Zecca, 52, was the commander of the Coast Guard station in Islamorada, before retiring and moving to Marathon seven years ago, becoming part owner of Marathon Marina and Boatyard. He has also served as an unpaid consultant for the city of Marathon on various projects

According to the original federal indictment, in December of last year Zecca sought to purchase 10 kilos of cocaine from a handyman at his marina who claimed to have friends looking to sell.

As they were negotiating the deal, Zecca allegedly asked his handyman if he could also kill someone. Zecca's target: Bruce Schmitt.

A frequent critic of city government who often appeared before the city council, Schmitt came from one of the wealthiest families in Marathon that still owns a large portion of the city.

Zecca didn't give a reason why he wanted Schmitt killed.

Unfortunately for Zecca, the drug deal was a federal sting and the handyman a DEA informant.

In return for his guilty plea on the murder-for-hire charge, federal prosecutors dropped the cocaine trafficking charges. Zecca faces up to ten years in prison, though because of his guilty plea he is expected to receive a less severe sentence.

Sentencing has been set for March 25 in Key West, Florida.

It is still not clear why Zecca sought to have Schmitt killed.

In the past, prosecutors have said the investigation was continuing and they believed Zecca was aided by "associates or co-conspirators" in the murder for hire plot.

Neither Assistant United States Attorney Benjamin Coats nor Zecca's attorney, William Aaron, would discuss the case after Zecca's guilty plea.

Asked if the government still believed that there were others who may have assisted Zecca in the murder-for-hire plot, Coats said, "I can't address that right now."

Aaron, however, said his client was not cooperating against anyone else in the case.

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