Three years ago, Lyle Anastos considered hiring a hitman to kill his step-grandfather and an attorney.
Anastos would soon be arrested. Eventually, he’d plead guilty. But earlier this year, his step-grandfather wrote a letter to a federal judge. And in that letter, he asked for “any leniency possible . . . so that we can all move on with our lives.”
U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber made note of that unusual plea for mercy from a victim Thursday as he prepared to sentence Anastos for an “extremely serious crime.” Both victims, the judge said, “have asked me to take it easy.”
So in the end, the judge gave Anastos five years in prison. Prosecutors had sought twice that amount, arguing Anastos “took multiple, concrete steps to kill a human being.”
The sentencing hearing took place in a federal courtroom half-full of Anastos’ family and friends. They showed up to support the 38-year-old one-time suburban real-estate executive whose financial troubles spiraled out of control, leading to the 2016 scheme that ended with his arrest. He pleaded guilty to the murder-for-hire plot in February.
Anastos apologized before he learned his fate Thursday, and he promised to make amends if given a second chance. He was “deeply ashamed,” he said.
“What I did was very wrong, and I blame myself for my actions,” Anastos said.
Though he initially considered two murders, Anastos ultimately targeted only the attorney for assassination. When asked at the time whether he was certain he wanted to go through with it, Anastos replied, “Yes, I actually would like to see it.”
He made that comment to a man who turned out to be an FBI informant.
It all began when Anastos got in over his head with a high-interest lender to the tune of $912,000, court records show. Anastos’ step-grandfather wound up buying the debt. But Anastos had lied to him about the deal, and the step-grandfather sued him.
Anastos complained to a drinking buddy, who claimed to have “mob-connected” family members who could help him. But that man had his own secret agenda, according to Anastos’ lawyers — he was facing fraud charges, and he thought he could cut a deal by turning on Anastos.
Then, in what Anastos’ lawyers would call a “fractured and alcoholic state of mind,” Anastos asked that man whether he knew someone who could kill his step-grandfather and the attorney.
The man said he did. Then he called the FBI and began to secretly record Anastos.
“That guy needs to go,” Anastos allegedly said of the attorney on one recording. “Get rid of that motherf---er. He has no reason to exist. Period.”
On Oct. 4, 2016, Anastos met his drinking buddy in a parking lot. There, he signed over titles for a trailer worth $5,000 meant to serve as collateral for the hit on the attorney. The FBI then arrested Anastos, who was drunk.
In the courtroom Thursday, Anastos’ lawyers asked the judge to give their client only two years behind bars. They argued in memos that Anastos’ financial predicament had been exploited by a conman for his own gain.
But Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicole Kim said the murder-for-hire plot was “entirely” Anastos’ doing. She asked Leinenweber to put Anastos away for a decade, arguing that a two-year sentence “would send a horrible message to the public.”