LOS ANGELES — A Culver City man who is the former chief executive of a Los Angeles medical marketing firm has been sentenced to 7 1/2 years in federal prison and fined $100,000 for attempting to hire a hit man to kill a business rival.
David Phillips, 37, who suffers from end-stage kidney disease, was found guilty in November of arranging the murder of the former colleague, who had planned to open a competing business. The intended victim, Steven Fruchter — who was not harmed — had previously helped Phillips run NKP Medical Marketing, which provides online marketing strategies for cosmetic surgeons and dermatologists.
“There are only a few offenses more serious [than solicitation of murder],” U.S. District Judge Fernando M. Olguin said from the bench. “He escalated a business dispute into a would-be death sentence.”
Although the case developed in New Orleans, Phillips was tried in Los Angeles due to his medical condition. Defense attorney Glen T. Jonas argued for leniency, recommending a period of home confinement and community service.
“Mr. Phillips is, in fact, dying,” he told the court, adding that a kidney transplant for his client while locked up was unlikely. “The [prison] sentence, in reality, is a death sentence.”
However, Olguin pointed out that Phillips’ condition could be addressed at a federal prison medical facility.
Agents of Homeland Security Investigations stumbled on the murder plot while investigating an alleged methamphetamine trafficker who was overheard talking about a “hit” on a tapped telephone line.
Before his arrest in a sting operation, Phillips met with the supposed hit man at NKP’s Sepulveda Boulevard offices. Agents had provided the informant with a staged photograph showing the intended victim with what appeared to be bruises and a gunshot wound.
Fruchter told the court that he suffers from insomnia and increasing fear that Phillips might arrange another attempt on his life.
“My home has become my prison,” Fruchter said, adding that he carries a concealed weapon and was forced to relocate after the plot was uncovered. He said friends avoid him out of worry they may become unintended victims if a hit does take place.
“I live my life always looking over my shoulder,” Fruchter said.
Federal agents in New Orleans and Los Angeles investigated the case.
Two co-defendants were charged in New Orleans federal court with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and use of interstate commerce facilities to solicit a murder-for-hire.
Phillips, for his part, said he was “very sorry for what Steven Fruchter and his family have gone through. I clearly made a horrible decision.”