Indian American chef murdered for insurance payout by woman friend, finds jury


An Alameda County jury found two defendants guilty Monday, Feb 7, in a murder-for-hire plot against an Indian American executive chef.

The jury convicted Marvel Salvant and Maria Moore of first-degree murder with special circumstances in the killing of Dominic Sarkar.

The jury also found the allegation that defendant Salvant had personally and intentionally discharged a firearm to be correct.

Dominic Sarkar(Above photo), 56, was a former executive chef at the restaurant Passage to India in Mountain View, California, and at the Rangoli restaurant in Fremont.

He was found dead in the bedroom of his residence in Fremont. The jury found that Moore conspired with Salvant to murder Sarkar to collect $800,000 in life insurance benefits.

Moore was in a relationship with the slain chef and was listed as his domestic partner on at least one of the two policies on his life.

Marvel Salvant and Maria Moore

During investigation, it was found that Sarkar had purchased a $500,000 life insurance policy in Apr 2016 with Moore as his domestic partner. Two of Sarkar’s daughters were listed as contingent beneficiaries.

In September that year, however, a beneficiary change was submitted, removing Sarkar’s daughters from the policy and naming Moore’s son as the contingent beneficiary.

The following year, Sarkar purchased an additional $300,000 insurance on his life with his daughters listed as sole beneficiaries. In Jan 2018, this policy was also changed to name Moore the sole beneficiary.

The district attorney’s office said evidence showed that less than a month before the murder, Moore wired $500 to Salvant, who lives in the Sacramento area.

The DA’s office said cell phone location records showed Salvant coming to Sarkar’s neighborhood. Surveillance footage showed Salvant’s car parked near Sarkar’s house at the time of the murder.

“A male was then seen on the footage riding a bicycle from where defendant Salvant’s vehicle was parked toward the victim’s residence,” a news release stated.

“Minutes after the murder, the same male was seen returning to the vehicle. Cell phone location data showed defendant Salvant leaving the area back to his residence in the Sacramento area.”

Salvant and Moore were found guilty with special circumstances. The jury also found that Salvant had “personally and intentionally discharged a firearm” at Sarkar.

Sushma Taneja, president & CEO at Passage to India Bakery, told indica she was in a state of shock.

Taneja said she did not know Salvant but had met Moore and was in touch with her even after Sarkar’s death. She said Moore and Sarkar were “good friends” and when Sarkar died his daughters and wife stayed with her. She even brought them to the restaurant.

Taneja said she never thought Moore could do something like this. “Maria used to talk to me all the time, she was very nice to me and I used to tell her bring the kids (Sarkar’s daughters) and I can drop food till they are here or send the food to your house and she would say no,” Taneja said, adding after a pause, “You know, she was very protective of his (Sarkar’s) kids.

“Maria would say they don’t want to go anywhere.  They like to be with me and they like me a lot. She was very nice. I am shocked.”

The Sarkars, who live in India now, were in Fremont to attend Dominic’s funeral. They stayed a while but never returned phone calls once they left for India, she said. “I called a couple of times, but no one picked up.”

Asked about Sarkar who had worked with her and wanted to rejoin the restaurant, Taneja said he was not married to Moore and continued to be friendly with his wife with whom he had three daughters. Two of the daughters came for the cremation. “I never asked questions about his family,” she said.

Recalling the last time she met Dominic Sarkar, Taneja said he had worked with her as executive chef for some time and left to open his own restaurant, but it did not work out. Then he joined another restaurant but wanted to ‘came back to me’.

“Before leaving for India, he came to say bye,” she said, “(and tell me) that he is going to India and on his return he is going to join Passage to India. I said have a safe journey. In response he said, “No, madam, I will call you from the airport, then you wish me.”

Taneja , who has been running the restaurant since 1992, said, “He carried some biryani from my place for Maria. He liked her a lot.” Sarkar also used to bring Moore to the restaurant.

Sarkar never let Taneja work in the kitchen. She described him as a very nice person. “Even now, when there is an important occasion, we miss him. He was perfect at everything.”