Photo Caption: Georgios Kakavelos beside his new attorney Mark Sacco for sentencing Tuesday. ERICA MILLER/THE LEADER-HERALD
BALLSTON SPA – A Johnstown deli owner who ambushed and killed an employee — 22-year-old Allyzibeth “Ally” Lamont — for blowing the whistle on his litany of labor law violations was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole Tuesday in Saratoga County Court.
Georgios Kakavelos, 53, of Milton, showed little to no emotion as Judge James A. Murphy announced the sentencing, the county’s first-ever first-degree murder conviction since the statute was enacted.
Kakavelos, the owner of the Local No. 9 Smokehouse and Substation in Johnstown, sat stoically as family and loved ones of Lamont, of Gloversville, gave emotional victim-impact statements.
Kakavelos, a Greek immigrant, also owned the Saratoga Diner in Saratoga Springs and Travers Diner in Gloversville.
The victim’s sister, Brooke Lamont, told Kakavelos: “You disgust me and make me physically sick. The truth is heartbreaking, something I will truly never forget. And now everybody knows who you truly are — a woman-hating, narcissistic piece of sh–.”
Tammy Quackenbush, Lamont’s aunt, said: “I hope that you never get a moment’s peace for what you did. Your Honor, we ask that you sentence him to the same thing (Kakavelos) sentenced us to — life without parole.”
Christa Lamont, the victim’s mother, said she and Ally’s father, Sherman, will always be devastated and enraged by the fact that Kakavelos — and not someone who cared for or loved her — was with their daughter as she fought for her life and took her last breath.
“You are a failure as a businessman,” the mother said. “You’re a failure as a human being.”
First Assistant District Attorney Alan M. Poremba described Lamont as genuine, generous and courageous when she confronted Kakavelos about fraudulent business practices on behalf of herself and female coworkers.
Kakavelos was convicted of instigating a murder-for-hire scheme because of Lamont’s complaints to the state Department of Labor against his business, and his practice of avoiding taxes by paying employees under the table.
James Duffy was also charged with first-degree murder, but in April pleaded guilty to a single count of second-degree murder. In exchange for testifying against Kakavelos, Duffy was sentenced to 18 years to life in prison.
The jury heard testimony for six weeks, convicting Kakavelos of all 10 charges on June 17. It deliberated for about seven hours over two days. More than 60 witnesses testified and more than 700 exhibits were presented.
Instead of proclaiming the verdict from what had been the juror’s socially-distanced seats in the courtroom, the jury was granted its request to assemble in the jury box and deliver their verdict standing together and united, Poremba said.
At least seven of the jurors were in court for Kakavelos’ sentencing.
Lamont was slain at the Townsend Avenue shop on Oct. 28, 2019. Her body, buried in a shallow grave, was found by police on Oct. 31, 2019, near the southbound entrance ramp to Northway Exit 13 in Malta.
After Kakavelos was convicted, Robert Reardon, the state commissioner of the Department of Labor, weighed in on the case in a letter to the court.
Reardon noted that Lamont came forward in good faith to report labor law violations to fight for justice for herself and her colleagues, only to become a victim of “the most heinous act of retaliation” against a worker the state had ever seen.
“I ask the court to consider the potential chilling effect in terms of sentencing that this murderer’s actions will have on workers who seek to exercise a basic and fundamental right: the right to report mistreatment and violations of the law,” the commissioner wrote, adding that Lamont was “a hero” to her coworkers she fought to protect.
The prosecutor said Lamont had indicated she believed Kakavelos was just “a strange and arrogant man” when she first started working at the deli.
In time, Poremba said, she learned about her boss’s penchant for dishonesty. But she would never know how diabolical Kakavelos was until the last moments of her life.
Poremba said Kakavelos engaged in fraudulent activities for more than two decades, in conjunction with the eateries he owned and operated in Saratoga and Fulton counties.
Kakavelos underreported his employees’ hours to the New York State Department of Labor, the New York State Department of Tax and Finance and the federal Internal Revenue Service. He failed to pay employees on time and for the full amounts owed. He never paid overtime, and always paid in cash without issuing pay stubs, the prosecutor said.
Kakavelos also refused to pay unemployment insurance contributions and evaded tax obligations.
Kakavelos declared personal bankruptcy in 2019 after he was caught and fined twice for labor law violations.
But he continued to engage in the same fraudulent business practices at the Johnstown deli, accruing more than $70,000 in tax debts to the New York State Department of Tax and Finance, $120,000 to the IRS and tens of thousands of dollars of remuneration and fraud penalties to the New York State Department of Labor.
Poremba said Lamont warned Kakavelos that she would turn him into the state labor board and expose him on social media if he didn’t stop his unlawful business practices.
“She hated the way the defendant treated her and her coworkers,” Poremba said.
Lamont had met with a New York State Department of Labor investigator and voiced grievances approximately seven weeks before she was killed.
According to Duffy’s testimony, Kakavelos became livid and focused his anger on proclaiming Lamont the ringleader among his female workers. He blamed Lamont for ruining his business, reputation and his livelihood.
Initially, Kakavelos hired Duffy to act alone in killing Lamont.
The two men considered staging an accidental drug overdose or a botched robbery inside the deli, Poremba said. But Kakavelos rejected those plans because news of a dead body inside the business would generate negative publicity for the deli.
The two men agreed that Duffy would strike Lamont over the head with a baseball bat and stuff her body in a large sandwich prep cooler to hide and transport the body before disposal.
But the day before her murder, Duffy said he couldn’t go through with it, and Kakavelos lambasted his partner for his cold feet. Kakavelos then decided he couldn’t count on Duffy acting alone.
The next day, Kakavelos bought clothes at Walmart that he wore during the murder and disposal of cleanup items and trace evidence, Poremba said. He also bought work gloves and two bags of fertilizer that he believed would hasten Lamont’s decomposition.
The finalized murder plan involved a ruse where Kakavelos, after closing time, distracted Lamont with cleaning tasks in the deli washroom while Duffy came in and struck her with a bat from behind.
Duffy was supposed to slip a contractor-grade garbage bag over Lamont’s head prior to the first bat strike, to minimize the blood spatter. However, the plan did not go as expected, Poremba said.
Duffy struck Lamont in the head prior to the bag being placed. Kakavelos then pulled the bag over Lamont’s head and kept it there while Duffy inflicted three more blows with the bat to Lamont’s skull.
Despite her injuries, Lamont continued to fight for her life, even as she was knocked to the ground with the bag over her head and Kakavelos straddling and trying to choke her.
Kakavelos yelled to Duffy to get something heavier, and he returned with a 2.5-pound sledgehammer that he used to strike Lamont’s head “with everything he had,” Poremba said.
Kakavelos struck Lamont three more times with the hammer.
Duffy testified that Kakavelos had “an expression of happiness in his face,” uttered something foreign, and checked Lamont’s pulse.
“It’s over,” he proclaimed.
After the murder, Kakavelos drove to Walmart to purchase cleaning supplies for the larger-than-expected cleanup. He took his time buying plastic sheeting, duct tape, towels and bleach.
The prosecutor recalled the “disturbing images” of Kakavelos eating an Almond Joy candy bar and callously buying a magazine. He even remembered to buy laundry detergent for his wife.
Kakavelos returned to the deli and the two men finished wrapping Lamont’s body in plastic sheeting and duct tape. They cleaned the washroom and disguised the remainder of the bloody crime scene with red soda syrup, the prosecutor said.
They loaded Lamont’s body in the back of Kakavelos’ Volkswagen Passat along with bags of items from the cleanup.
The men dumped the body off the Northway ramp and returned the next night with supplies, stripped the victim of her clothes, and placed her in a shallow hole with fertilizer, concrete blocks, concrete mix and mud, Poremba said.
Kakavelos’ custom prescription glasses were found within 15 feet from where Lamont’s body was buried.
Items used during the murder were disposed of in Milton and Galway during the next two days, the prosecutor said.
Kakavelos had the trunk of his Volkswagen relined with material he purchased at Lowe’s in Glenmont, and he had the car detailed and deodorized at a carwash in Colonie to remove and destroy trace evidence.
On Oct. 31, 2019, after several breaks in the case, members of law enforcement were brought to Lamont’s body.
Kakavelos’ lawyer Mark Sacco asked the judge to impose a minimum sentence, noting it was his client’s first brush with the criminal justice system, and that he was a local business owner who employed many people. Sacco also called Kakavelos a good husband and father to his three children.
The judge denied Kakavelos’ motion, on behalf of his wife, to set aside the jury verdict, and Kakavelos’ attempt to have Sacco replaced on the case.
Sentencing had been delayed as Kakavelos removed his first lawyer, Kevin O’Brien of Albany, shortly after the verdict.
The judge imposed the sentence, taking exception to Kakavelos’ claim that he had no opportunity to tell his story to the jury.
Kakavelos declined to give a statement in court Tuesday. His attorney indicated Kakavelos intends to appeal.
Poremba said a probation officer, during Kakavelo’s pre-sentence interview, described Kakavelos as emotionless and stoic, and at no time did he ever refer to Lamont by name.
“The absence of any type of remorse or regret was startling,” the probation officer wrote. “Georgios Kakavelos never admitted any responsibility. He never said he was sorry. He never said he was wrong. His focus throughout the interview was entirely on himself…”
Kakavelos blamed Duffy, his legal counsel and the criminal justice system, the prosecutor read.
“Throughout the interview, Georgios Kakavelos wrapped himself in a cloak of victimhood.”
Contact reporter Brian Lee at firstname.lastname@example.org or 518-419-9766.