Ronald Epps sold marijuana and cocaine to make money.
He also set fire to his Amherst apartment house, not once, but twice, to make money.
But none of those schemes compare to that night in August of 2009 when Epps, this time motivated by a $100,00 life insurance policy, shot and killed his fiancee Angela Moss and left her on the side of a dark, desolate road in Orchard Park.
U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara on Thursday sentenced Epps to 60 years in prison.
"My family has been torn apart," Mary Moss, Angela's mother, said while looking at Epps, "and you have taken something that can't be put back."
Arcara’s sentence follows a jury verdict that found Epps guilty on all 10 counts against him, including insurance fraud. The fraud conviction hinged on prosecutors proving the Amherst man murdered Moss in order to collect on her life insurance policy.
In finding him guilty, the jury effectively found Epps responsible for Moss’ death.
"We will never be the same," said Stacey Moss, Angela's sister. "There will never be closure. There will only be justice."
Epps, now 48, was never charged with murder but the allegation that he killed Moss was at the center of his prosecution on insurance fraud, arson, drug dealing and weapons charges.
There was no mention of the Erie County District Attorney's office during the trial, but it's no secret Orchard Park Police believed the Erie County Distict Attorney's office, then under under Frank Sedita III, should have charged Epps with murder. Sedita's office had claimed the evidence was not strong enough to convict him.
"There's a maxim in the law that justice delayed is justice denied, but not in this case," said Acting U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy.
During the jury trial, prosecutors Melissa M. Marangola and Joel L. Violanti portrayed Epps as greedy and controlling and accused him of shooting Moss in the back of the head and leaving her body alongside California Road, not far from the nursing home where she worked as a nurse.
"I can't think of one person who has come before this court who deserves a life sentence more than this defendant," Marangola told Arcara.
Epps did not take the witness stand but his defense attorney, Cheryl Meyers Buth, argued during the trial, and afterward in court papers, that there were holes in the prosecution’s case.
There are no eyewitnesses and no admissions by Epps, she is quick to note, and no gun was ever recovered.
"Mr. Epps, then and now, maintains his innocence," Buth said Thursday.
It was early on the morning of Aug. 28, 2009, when a co-worker headed to work found Moss’ body. She was last seen alive at 11 p.m. the previous night, shortly after finishing her nursing shift at Absolut Care, an Orchard Park nursing home.
For three years, the murder went unsolved.
Then, in 2012, a federal grand jury indicted Epps on drugs and weapons charges. A second grand jury followed suit a few months later with new charges of fraud and arson.
Suddenly, Epps was facing charges of fraud and allegations of murder.
As part of the trial, prosecutors called a variety of witnesses, including a former neighbor who testified that Epps approached him shortly after Moss’ death and offered to pay him $50,000 to kill her mother. He said Epps was angry over Mary Moss’ legal attempts to stop him from collecting on her daughter’s life insurance.
Another witness, one of Epps' friends, testified that Epps often complained about his fiancée and, on one occasion, shortly before Moss’ murder, sent his friend a text that said, “I’m going to kill that -----.”
Epps’ conviction is the result of an investigation by the Orchard Park Police, Amherst Police and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.