Text Messages: Cruz Had Other Hitmen Lined Up

5/16/2010 10:30 PM PDT

Text Messages: Juan-Carlos Cruz Had Other Hitmen Lined Up

TMZ has obtained a series of text messages between former Food Network host Juan-Carlos Cruz and the homeless men he allegedly tried hiring to kill his wife -- and it seems Cruz had other potential hitmen in the wings if 3 guys turned him down. 

The homeless men whom Cruz allegedly solicited told TMZ he gave them a phone to contact him.

According to the texts on that phone, they became frustrated and threatened to bail on the gig because of Cruz's payment plan -- ten 100 dollar bills ripped in half ... the guys would get half of each bill when they agreed to the hit and the other halves after they kill Cruz's wife.

Cruz texted the men: "Have already been burned with whole bills then no show thats why do it this way."

He then texted: "Have 2nd party ready 2 take over if u dont want it r u in?"

Cruz also used the phone to set up meets with the men -- one text read, "Call me i have a proposal," another read "Meet me at the spot in a hour," while another said "Meet at starbucks 10 am to discuss details about wed."

We're told the last few texts were from the day Cruz was arrested. Cruz wrote "I am on my way" twice, "By [sic] there in a min" and finally "Almost there everything ko [sic]."

No, everything was not ok for Cruz.  The 3 homeless men were secretly working with cops.