Murder, She Thought

Market Meditations | August 2, 2022

It’s simple – find an assassin on the dark web, send some crypto and details of who you want murdered, and problem solved! Well at least that’s what Jessica Leeann Sledge might have thought before she was sentenced to 10 years in prison yesterday:

  • One of the scarier trends of 2021 was the rise in ‘Bitcoin-for-Murder’ plots, where individuals sought the services of anonymous killers on the internet.
  • At least five cases are now known from last year where individuals offered Bitcoin to online hitmen to take someone out.
  • Nelson Replogle tried to have his wife killed in a “road rage” accident or “carjacking gone wrong”.
  • The FBI were tipped off to this plot by BBC journalists, who supplied the address that received the funds for the murder.
  • Their Cyber Task Force tracked the money to a Coinbase wallet and issued a subpoena to determine the owner.
  • Mrs. Sledge ended up conversing directly with an undercover FBI agent on WhatsApp. Similarly, Scott Quinn Berkett was contacted by an FBI agent posing as the hitman after payments of $13,000 were made to kill his ex-girlfriend.
  • Forbes reported last year that dark web scammers have been taking people’s money and then informing on them to prevent harm to the victims. This may be how the BBC were able to tip the FBI.

Contrary to some popular narratives, cryptocurrency transactions are not absolutely anonymous. When appropriate, the online record stored in the blockchain can help to bring a would-be killer to justice.