updated 1/18/2008 7:43:01 AM ET 2008-01-18T12:43:01

An illegal immigrant from Lithuania was sentenced Thursday to 15 years in federal prison for his role in the kidnapping and murder of Russian immigrants whose bodies were found in a reservoir near Yosemite National Park.

Aleksejus Markovskis, 34, was part of a crime ring that kidnapped five wealthy immigrants and killed them after ransom had been arranged. He pleaded guilty in December 2004 to two charges of conspiracy to take hostages resulting in death and one charge of criminal forfeiture.

Markovskis had faced a mandatory minimum sentence of life imprisonment without parole, but prosecutors noted he testified against his accomplices. Prosecutors also said he was only involved in the crime ring for about three days.

He was given credit for the time he's already served since his arrest in June 2002.

Markovskis received $15,000 for standing guard over George Safiev, 37, of Beverly Hills, and Nick Kharabadze, 29, of Woodland Hills, at a Sherman Oaks home during their abduction and for performing other tasks, prosecutors said.

He did not directly participate in their murders and had no role in the deaths of three other victims.

Regret expressed
At his sentencing hearing, Markovskis expressed regret for his role in the scheme.

"I still would like to apologize for any harm, pain," he said.

U.S. District Judge S. James Otero said he believed Markovskis when he said he didn't know Safiev and Kharabadze would end up dead. But he also said Markovskis did not take the opportunity to save the two men and that he cooperated with the government only to save himself.

Co-defendants Iouri Mikhel, 42, and Jurijus Kadamovas, 40, were sentenced to death after their trials last year. A third defendant, Petro Krylov, 35, was also convicted at trial and sentenced last week to life in prison without parole.

Natalya Solovyeva, who was Kadamovas' girlfriend, is scheduled to be sentenced Friday for her role in the ring.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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