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Man jailed for Bitcoin murder-for-hire plot against ex

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Scott Quinn Berkett

Scott Quinn Berkett (US Department of Justice via CBS News)

A 25-year-old Beverly Hills man who paid a dark web group $13,000 in Bitcoin to murder a woman he briefly dated is to spend five years in federal prison for a scheme the victim says, “ will haunt me for the rest of my life. ”

Scott Quinn Berkett refused to leave the woman alone after she broke it off, then joined an internet group that posed as a murder-for-hire service, but instead provided its messages and other information to “members of ‘investigative media organization’ who contacted the FBI, prosecutors said in court filings.

“His words leave little doubt as to his desire and intent to see his ex-girlfriend murdered,” they wrote, adding in a sentencing memorandum that Berkett’s crime “was not a momentary lapse in judgment. , but a premeditated plot to kill the victim because she rejected his advances.

Eagle Scout who briefly attended Washington State University, Berkett was working as a part-time software technician when federal agents arrested him in May 2021 after he went to a grocery store to buy alcohol, as part of an alibi he had planned with a man. he thought he was a hitman but was actually an undercover FBI agent.

He has been in custody ever since, along with U.S. District Judge Mark C. Scarsi in Los Angeles, sentencing him to five years in prison on Monday after he pleaded guilty in June to using interstate facilities to commit murder for hire. His victim said in a sealed letter quoted by prosecutors that she thought about the conspiracy against her “almost daily” and that her anxiety was heightened “by seeing someone who looks like the defendant or seeing a plaque passing by California registration”.

Berkett met his victim when they were both administrators of a Facebook page for the Japanese animation show RWBY. He paid for her room at the Avalon Hotel while visiting the Los Angeles area, and she had sex with him “but felt pressured to do so” and said he was “sexually aggressive,” according to a 38-page complaint filed. in the Central District of California.

She broke up with him after the trip, “but he refused to accept the breakup,” prosecutors wrote, and continued to message him on various social media platforms. Contact continued until a family member of the victim called and texted Berkett’s father asking his son to stop contacting her. Investigators believe Berkett posed as his father to respond, “Consider this case closed.”

About two weeks later, the FBI learned of Berkett’s murder-for-hire scheme. Members of the “Dark Web Group” provided officers with the victim’s name and address as well as evidence “that the Bitcoin payments were made knowing that a stranger would murder him.” They included messages Berkett sent after he joined the group and was asked, “hi, are you looking for a hitman?”

Berkett replied, “Saving for a single shot. I will put in the work as soon as I have the BTC,” referring to Bitcoin. He submitted the payment the next day and wrote,

“I wish it looked like an accident, but a flight gone wrong can work better. As long as she’s dead. I would also like his phone to be recovered and irretrievably destroyed in the process. He also requested that “proof of his death be sent to me” with a photo of his dead body and a photo of a distinct tattoo on one of his forearms.

“I will refrain from sending a photo of the tattoo to avoid doctored photos,” Berkett wrote, according to the complaint. “If possible, letting me know if she was in Arizona or Idaho would also be appreciated so I can check via obituaries as well.” He would later write: “I look forward to receiving communications that will allow me to know when, approximately, to prepare my alibi.

By then, the recipients of Berkett’s messages had contacted the FBI. Court records reveal few details about ‘members of an investigative media organization,’ with FBI special agent Caitlin Bowdler describing their source of information as “a Dark Web group that advertised murder-for-hire services” in the May 2021 complaint.

“As law enforcement currently understands, this Dark Web Group was a scam,” Bowdler wrote. “To my knowledge, law enforcement has not had direct contact with this Dark Web Group.”

Armed with the group’s information, an undercover agent messaged Berkett via WhatsApp claiming to be the hired hitman. The agent ended up discussing the murder plot with him over the phone, as Berkett confirmed a slew of details from the dark web group’s messages and agreed to send the man an additional $1,000 via Western Union.

Bowdler watched Berkett send Rite Aid money, and he was arrested the next day. Investigators also searched his 2008 Mercedes.

A judge repeatedly refused to release him on bail, along with his lawyers Evan Jeness and Blair Berck including with their last request a letter of support from his parents which described him as “very rules-oriented and law-abiding”.

He has lived his entire life in their Beverly Hills home, “except for three semesters when he was a student at Washington State University”, where he was proudly part of a group that served as a “patrol of ‘unofficial security escort for female students walking alone late at night.’

“The group never dated any of the students they escorted – they were only there to help protect them,” the letter states. “Scott was very proud to be part of this group.”

American Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Choljian said in a written order that Berkett’s own admission “that he has multiple personalities, including a violent personality” demonstrates that he can harm other people, and she said that giving him back to his parents “n ‘would not lessen the danger as the accused would have committed the instantaneous offenses of that place and thus succeeded in concealing his conduct from his parents’.

The judge also said that Berkett “recently attempted to fabricate evidence of his innocence by agreeing to pay $10,000 to a third party to fabricate Internet messages suggesting the defendant was set up.” Chooljian referenced his family’s wealth, writing, “The defendant’s access to significant financial resources and his experience of traveling abroad reinforce” his belief that Berkett would put his parents’ home at risk and would flee the area in an attempt to escape his charges. Prosecutors said Berkett only earned $650 a month as a software technician, but still had easy access to the $14,000 in total he paid for the woman’s murder “demonstrating his access to financial resources.”

Berkett signed a plea agreement on April 27. Prosecutors said in earlier papers that his standard range under US Sentencing Commission guidelines put him above the legal maximum of 10 years in prison, but they ended up recommending five years because his “mental health condition is a mitigating factor. factor.”

They attached to their 10-page memo the sealed letter from the victim as well as sealed letters from his mother, father and sister. Her mother wrote that she felt helpless because “there is a man in this world who wants my child dead. A man who wants a picture of his corpse. If I say it too loudly, who’s to say it won’t upset him more. He’s not going to be locked up forever. If he was bold enough to do that, what else is he capable of?

Judge Scarsi allowed Berkett’s defense memorandum to be filed under seal after his attorneys said it “referred to confidential mental health information and other information of a highly personal nature, throughout “. He then sentenced Berkett to the 60-month sentence recommended by prosecutors on Monday afternoon.

Berkett was sued by assistant US attorneys Kathy Yo and Joseph David Axelradwho went into private practice in May.

Read the prosecutors’ full sentencing memorandum below:

(Image: US Department of Justice via CBS News)

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