Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Case of Ira A. Bloom

Case of Ira A. Bloom

East Longmeadow, MA
Hartford, CT

This is a domestic violence case in which Ira Bloom was found guilty of attempting to hire someone to murder his wife during a custody dispute.  

After three hours of deliberations, a federal jury in Hartford found Ira I. Bloom guilty  on both counts in a murder-for-hire scheme to have his ex-wife raped and murdered.

There are several people with the name Ira Bloom.  The individual discussed on this page was born around 1960.

If you have any more information about this case, please forward it to The Awareness Center. 


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Table of Contents:  

  1. Chilling Words Replayed In Murder-For-Hire Trial (10/04/2006)
  2. Hired For Hit Despite Police Ties - Defendant Knew Friend Had Been An Informant  (10/05/2006)
  3. Murder Plot Case Goes To Jury - Closing Arguments Follow More Than Two Days Of Testimony In Bloom Trial (10/06/2006)
  4. Man Guilty In Murder-For-Hire Plan (10/07/2006)

Also See:

  1. Domestic Violence In Jewish Homes - Date Rape, Marital Rape and Incest


Chilling Words Replayed In Murder-For-Hire Trial
By LYNNE TUOHY, Courant Staff Writer
Hartford Courant - October 4, 2006

The divorce of Ira A. Bloom and Zhanna Portnov had been finalized a year earlier, but the custody and visitation battles over their 8-year-old (Name Removed), seemed never-ending during the summer of 2005.

Their ongoing litigation was rife with restraining orders, including three in which Portnov claimed Bloom had threatened to kill her. The last she obtained only days before her husband allegedly met with a confidential informant to orchestrate her murder.

Bloom, who lived in East Longmeadow, Mass., thought kidnapping her from the parking lot of the Enfield chiropractic office where she was usually the first to show up for work was a sound plan, according to secretly recorded tapes of the conversation that were played to the jury Tuesday, the opening day of his trial in federal court in Hartford.

"She's gotta be raped and it's gotta look like a ... a complete mugging," Bloom said, according to a government transcription of the conversation.

Much of the exchange was otherwise difficult to discern, between the background music playing at the Hometown Buffet in Enfield July 8 and the often hushed tones used by Bloom and the informant, who was ostensibly lining up a hit man.

"Now, if he grabbed her with the freakin' car and dumped her in Hartford, where they found the body a few hours later, and she was raped and brutalized and all that and they stripped the car down, that's a car-jacking," Bloom theorized. "It'd never come back to me. Never."

For an alibi, he was going to go to synagogue from 7 to 8:30 a.m. the day of the planned hit. He felt compelled to haggle over the price.

"Fifteen thousand is kinda steep for, for an easy, 5-foot girl," he quibbled.

Late in the day Tuesday, a diminutive Portnov took the witness stand and testified about emigrating to the United States from Russia as a political refugee in the early 1990s, meeting Bloom several years later and marrying him in a matter of months. Ten days after their son was born, she said, Bloom made her go back to work to earn money; he seldom worked.

This trial is a window onto many things, particularly the volatility of some divorce and custody proceedings.

"I don't trust the system. I'd rather have her freakin' gone," Bloom states on the tape, in reference to an upcoming, and pivotal, hearing on custody and visitation.

Another window is onto the absurdity of the scene. Two men sitting in a public restaurant, the informant taking an occasional cellphone call from his own son's babysitter, and Bloom initially refusing to draw a map to Portnov's workplace.

"You think I'm gonna give you a map?" Bloom asked incredulously. "We'll all go to jail."

The map Bloom subsequently drew and the address he wrote on a napkin are now in evidence.

That Bloom allegedly intended to use life insurance proceeds to pay the killer was a sticking point, as the payment would be delayed 90 days or more, and could be jeopardized by a criminal investigation into Bloom. Bloom suggested the informant tell the hit man Bloom had been in an accident, and he'd have to wait for the money.

Bloom at one point in the conversation was wavering about whether to wait to see what happened at the August court hearing, or to have his wife killed during one of the days (Name Removed) was with Bloom, which amounted to about three days each week.

"I'll do whatever you say and I'm really tired of this game anyway," Bloom is quoted as saying. "This will save me. I mean, I only owe my lawyer about $500 right now. If we go into court on, on Aug. 12, I'll owe him about 15 grand by then. So everything's gone. I mean, she's dead."

Bloom during the conversation also said that he had located a guy in California who would kill his wife and make it look like a car accident for $7,000 - a snippet of conversation that confirmed to Special Agent Joanna Lambert, of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, that Bloom was dead set on having his wife killed.

Lambert was in the parking lot of the Hometown Buffet that afternoon, coordinating surveillance and listening in on the conversation being transmitted to a receiver in Lambert's car.

Lambert testified that she believed Bloom was "absolutely" serious about hiring someone to kill his wife.

On cross-examination by one of Bloom's attorneys, Audrey Felsen, Lambert confirmed that she and other law enforcement officers had paid the informant on past occasions for information on crimes involving drugs and weapons.

She also confirmed that Bloom and the informant had a longstanding relationship, and their sons played together. Lambert said it was true that Bloom knew his friend had worked as an informant.

When their conversation at the Hometown Buffet carried over into the surveillance-outfitted car the informant was driving, Bloom asked the informant if he was taping him. At that point, agents and local police surrounded the Buick, and Bloom's last words on the surveillance tape are, "Don, what'd you do to me?"

Bloom is charged with using interstate communications in a murder-for-hire conspiracy. He faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted.


Hired For Hit Despite Police Ties - Defendant Knew Friend Had Been An Informant
By LYNNE TUOHY, Courant Staff Writer
Hartford Courant - October 5, 2006

Donald Levesque had worked on and off as a confidential informant for various law enforcement agencies for 16 years by the time his friend, Ira A. Bloom, asked him to hire someone to kill Bloom's ex-wife.

And Bloom knew it.

Despite Levesque having regaled him with tales of working for police in Massachusetts and Connecticut, buying weapons and drugs and introducing undercover officers to dealers, Bloom allegedly chose him to set in motion the plan to abduct and kill Zhanno Portnov, the mother of his 8-year-old son.

Bloom, who is on trial in federal court in Hartford, is accused of an elaborate plan to end both her life and the incessant court battles over custody of their (Child Name Removed). She was to be kidnapped from the Enfield chiropractic office, where she always showed up first for work, raped and beaten. Her body and car were to be dumped in Hartford.

Levesque on July 5, 2005, did what he has done so effectively in the past: He presented the plot to the police. He then joined them in a strategy to snare Bloom.

The two men discussed the plan at length at the Hometown Buffet restaurant in Enfield July 8, 2005, between heaping plates of roast beef. Levesque was wearing a concealed wire and transmitter. Bloom was paranoid.

"He was worried about the waiter," Levesque testified Wednesday. "I told him, `Don't worry, he's not a police officer or anything.' He was worried about a woman sitting behind us."

As it turns out, she was a police officer monitoring the meeting.

Bloom was not worried, apparently, about the hefty man sitting across the table from him, Levesque. Bloom had brought along a female friend, Stella, but assured an annoyed Levesque that she was from Colombia and couldn't understand English.

Defense Attorney Bruce Koffsky stressed the absurdity of the situation - suggesting Bloom wouldn't have brought a date to the meeting if he was serious about wanting to have his ex-wife killed.

Koffsky also highlighted Levesque's zeal in pursuing Bloom, noting his proclamation, "Let's nail him," heard only by other officers monitoring Levesque's transmissions as he approached the restaurant.

"Let's nail him. That was your goal, right?" Koffsky asked.

"Stop him from killing his wife, yes," Levesque replied.

"You felt like you were one of the cops," Koffsky persisted.

"I always wanted to be, yes," Levesque replied.

Levesque acknowledged that he enjoyed Bloom's company, and that Bloom had a strange sense of humor.

Koffsky tried to get Levesque to acknowledge that Bloom's assertion that he had a guy in California who was willing to kill Portnov and make it look like a car accident for $7,000 was "just a figment of his [Bloom's] imagination. Correct?"

"I'm not his imagination," Levesque replied.

Bloom, 46, of East Longmeadow, Mass., was arrested in the parking lot of the Hometown Buffet and is charged with using interstate facilities -telephones and cellphones - in a murder-for-hire plot. He faces 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Stone introduced evidence that the power steering hose on Portnov's car had been cut with a knife in 2002. Mechanic Raymond Perkins testified, "It looked like it was tampered with."

Koffsky on cross-examination established the driver of the car would immediately be aware of such a problem because, Perkins testified, the engine would whine. The brake lines, on the other hand, were just as accessible and had not been cut.

As for Bloom's sense of humor, Stone asked Levesque, "When the defendant stated he wanted his wife raped and brutalized and dumped in Hartford, do you recall anyone laughing?"

"No," Levesque replied.

The evidence segment of the trial is expected to wrap up today, and deliberations could begin by midday. As of the close of court Wednesday, Bloom was not expected to testify.


Murder Plot Case Goes To Jury
Closing Arguments Follow More Than Two Days Of Testimony In Bloom Trial
Courant - October 6, 2006

Is Ira A. Bloom an enraged divorcé who planned and was prepared to underwrite the rape and murder of his ex-wife in a car-jacking scenario?

Or is the real bad guy the confidential informant, Donald Levesque, a longtime friend of Bloom's who turned in his pal because he longed to be a police officer and had made his fair share of money and arrests in 16 years as an occasional informant?

A federal jury in Hartford began debating those questions Thursday afternoon, after more than two days of compelling testimony and secretly tape-recorded conversations. Bloom, 46, of East Longmeadow, Mass., did not testify and his lawyers elected to call no witnesses, relying instead on what they characterized as the weakness of government's case.

"On July 5, Levesque goes to special agent [Joanna] Lambert and says, `I got a guy talking about a contract murder,'" defense attorney Audrey Felsen argued to the jury. "What he's really saying is, `I can bring you Ira Bloom on a silver platter.' And it seems he does."

The gist of Felsen's closing argument was that Bloom was a blowhard who did not plan his ex-wife's death. He ranted constantly about his ex-wife and the caustic custody battle over their (Child Name Removed), who was 8 when Bloom was arrested last year. He'd been doing it for more than three years, pretty much incessantly.

"Did he really mean for this to happen, or was he blowing off steam? I submit to you he was blowing off steam," Felsen argued.

"He loved to hate her. He couldn't stop talking about it," she added. "He'd been talking about it since 2002. He'd been dealing with it daily.

"Donald Levesque's job ... was to turn that ranting into what we have here," Felsen said. "He had to take that ranting and put a play into place."

The setting for most of the case against Bloom is the Hometown Buffet restaurant in Enfield on July 8, 2005, where Levesque and Bloom met to talk about getting rid of Zhanna Portnov, Bloom's ex-wife and his son's mother.

Bloom forgot to bring a photograph of her, as well as a map to her workplace, Felsen noted. He had no money to offer, saying he would pay $20,000 when the life insurance policy he had on her paid out in about 90 days, but only if the hit man Levesque hired followed the plan and nothing came back at Bloom.

"Murder on a payment plan? That doesn't make sense," Felsen mocked.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Stone built his argument on Bloom's own words, captured by the concealed microphone and transmitter Levesque wore to lunch. And on words Bloom uttered to his ex-wife just a few weeks earlier, on June 25. "That's when the defendant told her she wasn't going to live long and he was going to kill her," Stone said.

Those words prompted Portnov to obtain a third restraining order against Bloom. Little did she know they were uttered barely a week after Bloom had changed his payment plan on an insurance policy he had on her life. For nine years he had paid the $104 premium annually, in one lump sum. In mid-June he specified he wanted to switch to a quarterly payment plan, submitting a quarter payment only. He maintained the policy, despite the fact that their divorce had been finalized for more than a year.

At lunch with Levesque, "he laid out in detail what he wanted done," Stone argued. "He wanted her raped and brutalized and her body dumped in Hartford. He wanted her dead."

The postscript to their luncheon conversation occurred in Levesque's parked car, which was equipped with hidden audio and video surveillance equipment. "So, everything's done. She's dead," Bloom states. And the two men shake hands.

"He details where it should happen, when it should happen, how it should happen, how much the payment would be and where the payment would come from," Stone said. "We heard it over and over again, from the defendant's own mouth on the recordings.

"The hit man should rape her and then enjoy himself for a little while - words to that effect," Stone quoted Bloom as saying. "This is the mother of his child. (Child's Name Remove) mother. The boy who was going to be part of the defendant's alibi - taking him to a restaurant with cameras, or he'd go to a synagogue.

"This is not a complicated case," Stone continued. "There's nothing hidden here. It's clear what his intent was. ...We got to hear out of his own mouth what he wanted done ... and how it would make his life better."

Bloom is charged with using an interstate facility - a telephone and/or cellphone - and with crossing state lines, to further a murder-for-hire scheme. Each charge carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine.

The government must prove its case against Bloom beyond a reasonable doubt. Bloom's defense is that he was entrapped by the government, specifically Levesque. If the jury finds it was more likely than not that Bloom was entrapped, they can still convict him if they find he had already formed a plan to commit the criminal conduct or was eager to enter into it.

Felsen urged the jurors to listen to the entire 90-minute tape of the luncheon conversation to discern "who Ira Bloom really is and who Donald Levesque really is."

As for Bloom, Felsen said, "he's obnoxious. He's a lout. He's belligerent. He's a braggart. He is persistent. He's a pest. He's in your face. He says inappropriate things all the time."

Levesque is a person who told Bloom about his various exploits as a confidential informant.

"He's been telling Ira Bloom stories about how he gets people to commit crimes so he can turn them over to the law," Felsen said. "Wow. Ira Bloom must be really, really stupid.

"Enter the world of the two people having the conversation," Felsen urges.

If they opt to do that, the jurors will find a swamp of relationships that overlap and conflict. They will find Levesque interrupting his conversation with Bloom about brutally killing Portnov to argue with his son's babysitter, via cellphone, about the movie the sitter has chosen - "The Fantastic Four." It's one Levesque had wanted to take his son to. "I thought you were taking him to see `Herbie,'" Levesque lamented.

"I went to see `Herbie,'" Bloom chimes in.

Levesque hangs up and he and Bloom go on to talk about cable television rates, certain television shows, cartoons. Then they return to the topic of murder. Levesque assures Bloom the killing will take place Tuesday, and urges him to take (Child's Name Removed)"somewhere nice." Tuesday is one of the days Bloom has custody of his son.

But Bloom isn't following the thread of the conversation.

"If she's gone, I don't have to run," he replies, quizzically.

"No," Levesque explains. "I mean, Tuesday. Go somewhere nice with (Child Name Removed)."

Bloom was apprehended outside the restaurant by local police and agents of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, including Lambert. Zhanna Portnov was oblivious to the alleged scheme until after her ex-husband was in custody.

The jury is scheduled to resume its deliberations today at 9:30 a.m.


Man Guilty In Murder-For-Hire Plan
Hartford Courant - October 7, 2006

After three hours of deliberations, a federal jury in Hartford found Ira I. Bloom guilty Friday on both counts in a murder-for-hire scheme to have his ex-wife raped and murdered.

The jury didn't believe the Massachusetts man's defense that he was entrapped by the government through a confidential informant who was his longtime pal.

Bloom, 47, formerly of Springfield, was found guilty of using an interstate facility - a telephone or cellphone - and crossing state lines to further a murder-for-hire scheme.

Each count carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine. Bloom remains in custody and his sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 22.

'We're pleased with the jury's verdict and will argue for a strict term of imprisonment,' U.S. Attorney Kevin J. O'Connor said Friday.

The jury got the case Thursday afternoon and deliberated for three hours over two days before returning a verdict about 10:15 a.m. Friday in U.S. District Court in Hartford.

Federal prosecutors had presented evidence that, during secretly tape-recorded conversations with informant Donald Levesque at an Enfield restaurant, Bloom said he wanted his ex-wife murdered.

Bloom said that if his ex-wife was mugged, raped and killed and her body was dumped in Hartford it would look like a carjacking and 'would never come back to me. Never,' according to the prosecutors.

During recorded meetings, Bloom agreed to pay the informant $20,000 from the proceeds of a life insurance policy to hire a third person to carry out the murder, according to evidence presented during the trial.

Bloom's attorney, Audrey Felsen, declined to comment Friday. In her closing argument, she contended that Bloom's rants against his ex-wife and about a custody fight were just 'blowing off steam' and that he did not mean for anything to happen to her.

Bloom and his ex-wife, Zhanna Portnov, were in a caustic custody battle over their young son.

Portnov was oblivious to the murder-for-hire scheme until Bloom was in custody. He was arrested outside the restaurant in July 2005 after an investigation by agents of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and Windsor and Enfield police.



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