A bitter ex-boyfriend who hired a “hitman” on the dark web and paid nearly £10,000 in Bitcoin to have a woman murdered was in fact caught up in an FBI sting.
Scott Quinn Berkett of Beverly Hills, California was arrested on Friday May 21. Police reports say the 24-year-old had met the woman online late last year.
She told police that she had agreed to meet up with Berkett in person in October, but quickly ended the relationship after he became “sexually aggressive”.
Berkett refused to accept that the relationship was over and continued to pester the young woman. In April one of her relatives contacted Berkett’s father on her behalf, asking him to intervene.
Berkett sent one final message to the woman, reports the New York Post, telling her she could “consider the matter closed”. But shortly after that Berkett began searching murder-for-hire groups on the Dark Web.
Self-styled “hitmen” advertising online are almost invariably con artists, cybercrime expert Chris Monteiro told the Daily Star. “It’s one of the most high-profile scams of the dark web,” he explained.
“There are a cluster of hitman for hire scam sites. They often claim to be a gang with killing abilities.
“There’ll be an email or website conversation to provide details. The conversation either peters out or escalates to handing over money and planning the kill.”
In this case the “hitman” provided details of the alleged contract to the FBI. Berkett handed over some $13,000 (around £9,000) in the untraceable cryptocurrency between April 28 and the date of his arrest.
“The information provided was specific about the identity and location of Victim 1, as well as social media accounts, nicknames, email and a distinctive tattoo of Victim 1,” a police statement says.
Berkett said he wanted the woman’s death to “look like an accident” although he added that “robbery gone wrong may work better,” because her wanted the victim’s phone to be “retrieved and destroyed irreparably in the process.”
An FBI agent met with Berkett to arrange the details of the “hit” and two days later agents swooped to arrest him.
If convicted, Berkett could face up to 10 years behind bars. He was set to make his initial appearance in court Tuesday. It’s unclear if he’s hired an attorney who could speak on his behalf.
Prosecutors said a relative of the woman who learned Berkett was still contacting her in April then reached out to his father via text.
Friday on a murder-for-hire charge after meeting the woman online last year, according to the US Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California.