A Los Angeles federal judge on Tuesday tossed out two of the most serious convictions in the racketeering case against Hispanic supermarket mogul George Torres, who had been facing a potential life sentence on charges that included solicitation of murder.

U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson ordered Torres temporarily released from prison after federal prosecutors turned over tape recordings of a key informant in the case, which suggested the witness had been coached and promised money and leniency in his own criminal case.

During a three-week trial in April, prosecutors alleged that Torres, who founded the Numero Uno Markets chain, was a ruthless entrepreneur who made millions in the grocery business by hiring illegal workers, failing to pay taxes, bribing a public official and arranging to have people killed when they crossed him.

Defense attorneys had disputed the allegations, saying Torres was a hard-working businessman who was targeted by an overzealous Los Angeles Police Department detective and lying informants enticed with promises of cash and early release from prison in exchange for testimony.

Torres was released after promising he would appear at future hearings in the case. He still faces sentencing on tax, immigration and bribery convictions. His attorneys said they will also seek dismissal of those charges.

"This is the kind of thing that keeps prosecutors up at night," Loyola University law professor and former U.S. attorney Laurie Levenson said Wednesday. "There's always a huge danger when you use an informant that you haven't been told the whole story."

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