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Business Observer Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022 4 months ago

Accountant pleads guilty to murder-for-hire plot involving dark web and Bitcoin

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Tampa accountant was charged with trying to hire someone to kill the wife of an ex-boyfriend
by: Louis Llovio Commercial Real Estate Editor

TAMPA — DeAnna Stinson, a Tampa accountant charged with trying to hire a hitman on the dark web and paying him with bitcoin, has pled guilty in federal court.

Stinson, scheduled to go to trial in February, entered her plea Wednesday, Jan. 19 via video conference, according to an online filing in the federal court system. A sentencing date has not been set.

The 50-year-old accountant was arrested in September after FBI agents were able to trace her conversations and transactions — first on a website and then with an undercover agent posing as a hitman.

She was indicted by a federal grand jury Oct. 13.

According to the criminal complaint, on July 31 an unidentified investigative media organization notified authorities they’d uncovered a threat to someone’s life on a website on the dark web. The complaint says the site offered the service, collected money but never followed through.

With the information in hand, the FBI agent in charge of the investigation logged on and found a message on the homepage that read: “If you are looking to have someone murdered, beaten, kidnapped you have arrived at the right place.”

On the site was an open forum allowing people to post public messages. On July 15 authorities contend a person later identified as Stinson posted that “I’m looking for a quick hit in southern Florida. Is anyone available?”

Officials allege Stinson was trying to get the spouse of a former boyfriend killed. She posted her target’s name, address and picture on the site.  

A search of the website found she had actually first tried to solicit a killer June 24, and between that day and the end of July she’d placed four orders and sent $12,307.61 in Bitcoin. She stated she preferred for the hit to be done between July 5 and July 11, authorities alleged. 

On June 25, authorities say she had placed an order that included a request that the hit man “Do not do at the home. Anywhere else is fine.”

She repeated that request on the July 15 order, this time offering a bonus if the hit was completed by July 31, the release states. 

Upset her timeline wasn’t met, Stinson contacted the site’s administrator July 31 asking they “reassign the job to someone who has a history of getting jobs done.” That, federal officials say in the complaint, was because she said she needed the “job done ASAP.”

Agents working the case were able to obtain records of the Bitcoin account showing payments to the website and were able to connect those records to Stinson through it. The information they uncovered included a savings account in her name and a checking account belonging to W.O.E. Consulting, which Florida records show is listed in her name.

W.O.E. Consulting’s website says it was founded by Stinson in 2002 to help “small, minority-owned businesses to have a firmly established financial foundation in order to flourish.” 

The information agents found also included her email address, driver’s license, Social Security number and phone number.

On Aug. 24, according to the criminal complaint, agents took staged photos of the victim, and then an undercover agent posing as the hitman contacted Stinson through a messaging app. The agent, say officials, sent the picture of the victim and asked Stinson to verify that’s who she wanted killed. “Looks right,” she messaged back.

About a week later, on Sept. 1, the undercover agent contacted her again to tell her he was going to stage the murder to look like a robbery but needed money for a revolver, asking if she’d wire the money via Western Union.

“I can’t send you Western Union, I don’t want it traced,” she replied back, according to the complaint, and asked if she could send the money via Bitcoin. The undercover agent agreed and said he needed $350 for the gun.

The undercover agent then told Stinson that some people have second thoughts and asked if she was sure she wanted this done.

According to the criminal complaint, Stinson sent back a single-word answer. "Yes.”  

On Sept. 12, the agent sent a message asking for the $350 for the gun and included a link to an account.

The following day, the agent in charge of the investigation checked the Bitcoin account created specifically for the investigation and found the $350 had been deposited.

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