Kelly Gribeluk pleaded guilty Wednesday to plotting with her podiatrist lover, Ira Bernstein, to have his estranged wife killed and two insurance investigators beaten up for looking into Bernstein practice.
Gribeluk, 35, the mother of three children, admitted her role in the assassination plot allegedly with 42-year-old Bernstein, who has been free on bail while Gribeluk languished in the Rockland County jail on $600,000 bail since their arrest by Ramapo police in May.
County Judge David Zuckerman took Gribeluk’s plea to three counts of conspiracy, including a charge that she and Bernstein made a $2,000 downpayment to have another person kill Susan Bernstein between April 4 and May 2 and two separate conspiracy charges of making separate payments of $2,500 to have a pair of insurance investigators beaten up between April 17 and April 26
Zuckerman ordered her release on $50,000 bail but mandated she wear an ankle bracelet as part of her release pending sentencing, which is set for Jan. 3. She also will be required to stay in her home 24 hours a day except a once-a-week check-in with her bail bondsman.She has visitation right with her children ordered by a Rockland Family Court judge.
Prosecutor Richard Kennison Moran declined comment on whether Gribeluk’s guilty plea involved her cooperation against Bernstein.
But he said there was no promised sentence length and he will make a recommendation at sentencing.
Her lawyer, Jonathan Ripps, said her sentencing could be delayed pending the progress of Bernstein’s case.
Ripps, stood with her in court as she pleaded. Bernstein, who is represented by Jeffrey Millman of Stony Point, is scheduled to appear before Zuckerman on Tuesday.
Ripps said Gribeluk has never before been charged with a crime and is “remorseful” and “took responsibility for some poor judgment.”
“She found herself in a situation that was difficult to back out of,” Ripps said, referring to her relationship with Bernstein, who was involved in a divorce and property dispute with his former wife. “We’re hoping for some leniency in exchange for an early plea.”
Moran has alleged that Bernstein negotiated a $100,000 price for his wife’s murder, conspiring with Gribeluk and a police informant to have a driver run down the mother of his children and claim her death was an accident.
They allegedly chose a local businessman to orchestrate the murder, but authorities said the man told police.
Bernstein and Gribeluk also wanted two United Healthcare insurance investigators beaten up, allegedly because they were going to refer potential fraud charges involving Bernstein’s podiatry business to the Rockland District Attorney’s Office.
Authorities even had a make-up artist made the investigators have swollen faces and showed Gribeluk and Bernstein photos to convince them the death plot was going to happen.
Bernstein, who lives in Montebello but in a separate residence, runs offices in Ramapo and Bardonia.
He’s lost two malpractice lawsuits since 2014 totaling more than $2 million. There are several financial judgments and lawsuits against him on file with the Rockland County Clerk’s Office.
The original price offer to kill Bernstein’s wife was $200,000, Moran told Zuckerman at a May bail hearing in the case. Moran said the negotiations was captured on audio and the case against Bernstein and Gribeluk included both audio and visual evidence.
Both Bernstein and Gribeluk originally pleaded not guilty to felony counts of second-degree conspiracy, second-degree solicitation and fourth-degree conspiracy, and a misdemeanor count of fourth-degree solicitation.
Ira and Susan Bernstein, who have three children, initially filed for divorce on Nov. 12, 2014 but entered into an agreement within the divorce proceedings on Feb. 26, 2016, to suspend the action, with the promise that Ira Bernstein would transfer ownership of the four properties within 30 days to Susan Bernstein, according to the legal document.
He agreed to pay all associated costs.
Susan Bernstein claims her husband had promised to turn over two properties in Rockland County and two beach-area apartments in New Jersey as part of their divorce negotiations, according to state Supreme Court papers filed with the Rockland County Clerk’s Office in New City. She took separate legal action to prevent Bernstein from using joint-owned properties May 5 for his bail.
Authorities said Bernstein had been paying the rent for Gribeluk on the nine-bedroom Montebello home where she was living.
She had once worked as a funeral home embalmer and had worked more recently at the now-closed MediSpa. She had visitation with her three children, after a bitter custody battle that included a fight over the children’s religious upbringing.
Susan Bernstein has filed a lawsuit accusing her husband of pain and suffering, her lawyer, Kimberly Sofia said after the guilty plea. Sofia said Susan Bernstein would not comment.
Zuckerman had Gribeluk sign a temporary order of protection to steer clear of Susan Bernstein, warning her if she violated any condition of her release she would be back in jail. She also signed a waiver prohibiting her from appealing her conviction.