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Buffalo man convicted of fraud in case that hinged on showing he killed fiancée

Stacey Moss didn’t pause for a second before answering.

“It will never be enough,” she said.

Moss was referring to her family’s six-year quest for justice and a jury verdict Wednesday that may come as close as they ever get to fingering the man who killed her sister.

The verdict against Ronald “Todd” Epps was guilty on all 10 counts, including insurance fraud. Getting a conviction on fraud hinged on proving the Amherst man murdered Angela Moss, his longtime fiancée, in order to collect on her $100,000 life insurance policy.

In finding him guilty, the federal court jury effectively found Epps responsible for Moss’ death.

“God is good,” said Mary Moss, Angela’s mother. “He took a part of our family that can’t be ... ”

At that point, Moss paused, bowed her head, and with her voice cracking with emotion, said, “a part of our family that can’t be replaced.”

Family members and others in the courtroom say Epps, who never testified at the trial, turned to the courtroom gallery after the verdict was read and uttered a curse.

Now 47, Epps was never charged with murder but the allegation that he killed Moss in August 2009 in Orchard Park was at the center of his trial on insurance fraud, arson, drug dealing and weapons charges.

“We’re obviously pleased for the family,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Melissa M. Marangola. “They waited six years for justice for their daughter.”

Portrayed by prosecutors as greedy and controlling, Epps was accused 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.

“One of the most satisfying verdicts of my career,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Joel L. Violanti, a veteran prosecutor.

Epps did not take the witness stand during the trial but his defense attorney, Cheryl Meyers Buth, went out of her way to poke holes in the prosecution’s case during the two-week trial before U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara.

“Mr. Epps is disappointed in the outcome of the trial and plans to appeal the jury’s verdict,” Buth said.

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.

“This was nothing short of an execution, make no mistake about it,” said Orchard Park Police Chief Mark Pacholec.

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.

The neighbor, Stanley Hall, also said he overheard Epps argue with Angela Moss one day during the summer of 2009, shortly before she was killed, and end the conversation by saying, “Before I let you go, I’ll kill you.”

Hall wasn’t the only witness to relate stories of Epps’ alleged threats.

Tamika Carter, who met Epps a few months before Moss’ murder, said he often complained about his fiancée and, on one occasion, shortly before Moss’ murder, sent her a text that said, “I’m going to kill that -----.”

Carter also testified about a bag that Epps left in her car the day of the murder, a bag other witnesses said contained guns, and about their conversations over his plans to set fire to his Amherst apartment house in order to collect on his renters’ insurance.

Epps is facing a minimum of 35 years in prison and a maximum of life in prison.

“It’s extremely unlikely Mr. Epps will ever see the light of day,” said U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr.

There was no mention of Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III at Hochul’s news conference, but the federal prosecutor did refer many times to the fact that Epps was never charged with murder.

Hochul, who described Epps as a “sinister individual,” stopped short of criticizing Sedita’s decision not to prosecute but, at the same time, suggested the federal prosecution was more complex.

“We had to prove murder plus motive,” he said of his office’s prosecution.

When asked if he would have prosecuted Epps for murder, Hochul declined to answer.

“Those questions should really be directed at the district attorney down the street,” he said.

Sedita was reportedly out of town and unavailable to comment Wednesday.

Since Epps’ indictment on insurance fraud, the allegation that he killed Moss as part of the fraud has reignited criticism over what some law enforcement officials view as Sedita’s overly cautious approach to difficult cases in order to keep his conviction rate high.

In the past, Sedita has declined to comment on the Epps case, but at one point did suggest the evidence may not have been strong enough to convict him.

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.