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A Florida woman's multiple attempts to hire a hitman on the dark web using Bitcoin resulted in her arrest instead of her alleged target's death last week.
DeAnna Marie Stinson, 50, was arrested on Sept. 24 on a federal warrant and charged with one count of solicitation to commit a crime of violence and one count of murder-for-hire in the Middle District of Florida. She is currently being held in the Pinellas County Jail on behalf of the U.S. Marshals Service.
In a statement, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Middle District alleged that starting on June 24, Stinson attempted to use a so-called "dark web" site that promised to connect customers with hitmen to pay someone to kill the spouse of someone with whom she'd previously been involved, who was not named by the office.
Stinson, prosecutors allege, tried to hire a hitman for the job four times, spending the equivalent of nearly $12,000 in Bitcoin, despite the supposed hitmen never following through for most of July.
Federal agents, however, eventually began monitoring her efforts.
According to charging documents in the case, on July 30, members of an investigative media organization brought evidence of Stinson's efforts on the site to the attention of federal law enforcement agents. Agents observed four public listings on the site for a hitman from the same account, as well as one public response to her requests. The agent in this case does not believe that the site's administrator's have ever done more than extract payments for services they did not plan to render, according to the documents.
The media organization, which reportedly has access to the website's records, provided agents with information belonging to the account that had placed the ads, including Bitcoin account addresses and chats the account had conducted. This indicated that the account owner had conducted more than $12,000 tra worth of transactions, using Bitcoin, in support of her request for a murder — for which she had provided a name, an address and a picture of the intended victim.
Stinson's early requests for the murder also specified that she would prefer they be conducted during a certain week in July; agents were able to confirm that Stinson was in Hawaii that week, and connected thousands of dollars worth of her Bitcoin transfers to a Hawaii-based IP address. Some of the other transactions were connected to an IP address associated with Stinson's home. Authorities also connected some of the cryptocurrency transfers into the supposed hitman website's account with transfers from a U.S.-based Bitcoin exchange. This was connected to Stinson's home address, driver's license, her apparent email, date of birth, Social Security number and selfie.
In an interview with the person listed on the site as the intended victim, agents allege the individual identified Stinson as a their spouse's former romantic partner.
On July 31, Stinson reportedly messaged the website administrators that she wanted a new contractor assigned to her job.
Federal agents then reportedly impersonated the new contractor assigned to Stinson's account. With the assistance of Stinson's intended victim, they staged surveillance photographs and then contacted Stinson on August 27, in the guise of a hitman using WhatsApp. The new supposed hitman offered her the photographs of the alleged target to confirm her interest.
The phoney hitman then contacted Stinson again on Sept. 1 to outline the plan for the supposed hit, asking for her to transfer funds for him to buy a new weapon with which to commit the crime. She alleged refused to use Western Union, for fear of it being tracked, but the charging documents say that, on Sept. 13, someone transferred the Bitcoin equivalent of $350 into an account created solely for the purpose of the investigation after the supposed hitman contacted Stinson and gave her the account address.
The probable cause complaint for Stinson's arrest was submitted to the court nine days later.
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