ST. LOUIS – A man at the center of a murder-for-hire plot against his own nephew told a co-conspirator that his nephew “ain’t gonna be around much longer” in a text message in the months prior to the young man’s killing, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.
Prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Missouri said James Timothy “Tim” Norman, a co-owner of Sweetie Pie’s soul food restaurants in the St. Louis area, took out a $450,000 life insurance policy in 2015 on his nephew, Andre Montgomery Jr., with Norman named as the sole beneficiary.
Norman is the son of Robbie Montgomery, who founded Sweetie Pie’s in 1996. The restaurant and Montgomery family were the subjects of a reality show produced by Oprah Winfrey’s OWN network called, “Welcome to Sweetie Pie’s.”
Andre Montgomery Jr. was shot and killed in the 3900 block of Natural Bridge Road just after 8 p.m. on March 14, 2016. He was 21. Norman was one of four people indicted in the conspiracy.
Travell Hill, the accused trigger man, was indicted in November 2020 on one count of murder-for-hire and one count of conspiracy to commit murder-for-hire. He pleaded guilty in June 2022. He’ll be sentenced on Sept. 20.
Terica Ellis, an exotic dancer living in Memphis, Tennessee, was accused of setting Andre up and tipping off Norman and others about Andre’s location prior to the murder. She pleaded guilty in July 2022 to one count of murder-for-hire conspiracy.
Waiel Yaghnam, Norman’s insurance agent, was indicted in August 2020 on one count of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud. He pleaded guilty in July 2022.
Both Ellis and Yaghnam will be sentenced on Oct. 26.
Prosecutors called representatives from Mutual of Omaha, Royal Neighbors of America, Americo Life, and Foresters Financial to discuss the insurance applications made in Andre Montgomery’s name.
According to prosecutors, Norman conspired with Yaghnam to fraudulently obtain the life insurance policy on Montgomery. In October 2015, the pair submitted four separate life insurance applications, each of them containing false information regarding Montgomery’s income, net worth, medical history, employment, and family background to the aforementioned companies.
Representatives from three of the companies said they canceled the application process due to incomplete paperwork or inability to obtain the necessary information to issue a policy. At least two of the reps testified that even if the applications were completed in full, they still wouldn’t have issued a policy because Norman was not part of Andre Montgomery’s immediate family and their relationship would not qualify for “insurable interest.”
In the policy that was ultimately issued, through Foresters, Norman obtained a $200,000 policy with a $200,000 accidental death rider that would pay out if Montgomery died of anything besides natural causes, and a $50,000 10-year term rider that would pay out if Montgomery died within a decade of the policy being approved.
All four representatives testified that Norman was listed as the sole owner and beneficiary on each of the applications. Yaghnam filed the paperwork.
Prosecutors allege Norman attempted to conceal this plan from Andre. On one application filed by Yaghnam, the base policy was set at exactly $249,999, a single dollar below a trigger amount set by the insurer that would have required Andre to take an in-person medical exam to determine if he was a health risk.
In the month prior to those applications being filed, prosecutors said Norman texted Yaghnam and was eager to get the ball rolling.
“(Andre) ain’t gonna be around much longer,” Norman texted Yaghnam.
Defense attorney Michael Leonard argued that Norman was worried about his nephew’s safety because Andre, an aspiring drill rapper, was involved in a dangerous scene.
During the cross-examination of each of the insurance representatives, Leonard asked if they knew for certain that Tim Norman was involved in the application process. Each of the representatives said they did not know because they only dealt directly with Yaghnam.
Earlier in the day, FBI agent Chris Faber testified that investigators could not determine if somebody forged Andre’s signature on the insurance applications because they did not have enough writing samples belonging to the victim.
Faber said Andre returned to St. Louis in March 2016 to speak with police and take a polygraph test to clear his name in connection with a June 2015 burglary at the home of his grandmother, Robbie Montgomery.
More than $200,000 in cash and other valuables were stolen from the residence. Norman pointed the finger at Andre, who left the area shortly after the crime. Text messages presented in court on Tuesday between Andre and his grandmother indicate the young man feared for his own safety. Andre denied any involvement in the burglary and suggested his uncle might be responsible.
Faber said the FBI does not know who committed the burglary. However, he said county authorities had cleared Andre.
Attorney Leonard pointed out that Andre failed to contact his grandmother or anyone else in his family in the seven to 10 months he had left town. Andre continued to be active on social media, posting photos of himself posing with drugs and guns. Faber said investigators never figured out how many times Robbie asked Andre to come back to St. Louis.
Faber also testified that Andre was under the influence of drugs at the time of his polygraph test.
Norman, who lived in Los Angeles at the time to oversee the opening of other Sweetie Pie’s restaurants, routinely traveled back to St. Louis. His attorneys have attempted to portray Norman as well-off in an effort to refute prosecutors’ claims that he orchestrated his nephew’s death for the money.