Paul Morasca: How Did He Die? Who Killed Him?

Image Credit: American Conspiracy: The Octopus Murders

When Danny Casolaro was found dead under mysterious circumstances, the case opened a can of worms that had much to do with what the investigative journalist was working on — a political conspiracy known as the Octopus. Netflix’s ‘American Conspiracy: The Octopus Murders’ covers all the intricate details of the entire case and also contains interviews with various family members and friends of the victims who lost their lives at the expense of the conspiracy, and officials involved in the entire case. The episode also delves deeper into the gruesome murder of Paul Morasca, who became one of the casualties linked to the Cabazon himself.

Paul Morasca Was Found Hog-Tied and Dead in His San Francisco Apartment

Known for his financing skills, Paul Morasca made the most of it and became a money launderer. Since his teenage years, he had been friends with Michael Riconosciuto, a prodigal scientist with a sharp mind who turned into his roommate, best friend, and business partner. On the professional front, he worked with Michael and was the money trader of Cabazon with access to several offshore bank accounts, amounting to more than a billion dollars, per Michael’s claims.

Image Credit: American Conspiracy: The Octopus Murders

While everything was seemingly going smoothly in his life, Paul was not aware of the fact that there was a target on his back. On January 13, 1982, six months after the tragic demise of Fred Alvarez, his childhood friend Michael, whose mind was ruined by drugs, arrived at Paul’s San Francisco apartment on Kearny Street near Telegraph Hill and what he found was something that shook him to his core. His beloved friend Paul was killed with the help of a murder technique popular amongst the Japanese Mafia that makes the victims struggle before they slowly asphyxiate themselves.

Upon entering the condominium, Michael saw that Paul had his wrists tied behind his back while a wire was tied from his neck to his ankles. When he failed to keep his legs bent, the wire strangled him slowly. The strangulation caused by this merciless killing technique became the cause of Paul’s gruesome demise. Instead of informing the police then and there, Michael got back into his car and made the 500-mile road trip to the Cabazon Indian Reservation located outside Palm Springs, California. As soon as he reached his destination, the scientist told Dr. John Phillip Nichols that he had found Paul murdered in his apartment in San Francisco. Soon, the police launched an investigation into the case and started looking for possible suspects after collecting all evidence from the crime scene.

Paul Morasca’s Killer Has Never Been Positively Identified

Paul, being the money launderer who handled the finances of the Cabazon and Nichols’ operation, had invested hundreds and thousands of dollars into Nichols’ operation. He also worked among the Cabazon Arms confidantes, while having the access codes for the multiple offshore accounts that consisted of millions and millions of drug money. One month or so before the murder of Paul, Nichols-owned Cabazon India casino went bankrupt and he filed for bankruptcy in December 1981. With so much loss, Nichols began to look for avenues to recover his lost money.

Image Credit: American Conspiracy: The Octopus Murders

It was alleged that Paul began asking for his money and when he did not get what he demanded, he began exposing CIA activities, especially the truth about Wakenhut Corporation. A meeting was held at Vanessi’s restaurant in San Francisco where many key individuals were in attendance, including Michael’s father Marshall Riconosciuto, John Philip Nichols, and Philip Arthur Thompson, as they supposedly devised a plan to murder Paul. Then, he was found hog-tied and asphyxiated in his apartment. Soon after that, all of his drugs and money appeared to have disappeared. Even his Swiss bank accounts were reportedly completely drained.

When the investigation for Paul’s murder began, his roommate and best friend Michael Riconoseiuto was one of the initial suspects on the police’s list. But as the authorities dug deeper, they found out about a man named Jason Smith, a CIA hitman whose real name was Philip Arthur Thompson. Paul’s then-girlfriend claimed that at the time, he was frightened for his life and he was particularly afraid of the hitman, who had a lengthy arrest record and a long history of violent crimes to his name, including kidnapping, murder, rape, escape, attempted murder, and robbery. After all, despite all these charges, he had hardly served any time behind bars.

According to Michael, Philip had admitted to him that he was the one behind the murder of Paul, and what he did to Paul was one of the most horrible things he had ever done in his life. Michael even believed that it was Nichols himself who had ordered Philip Thompson to get rid of Paul for good. However, there was not enough evidence against Philip Thompson to convict him of the murder of the money launderer. Thus, to this day, the case remains unsolved.

Read More: How Did Philip Arthur Thompson Die?