A 25-year-old Virginia woman was arrested on Wednesday after allegedly attempting to hire a darknet hitman to murder an unknown potential victim. Annie Nicole Ritenour, from near the Washington D.C. area of the state, is the latest to fall for a well-known entrapment scam luring would-be conspirers into thinking they are dealing with a real hitman on the dark web. Now she faces federal criminal charges relating to an attempt to pay $3,200 in Bitcoin to the would-be murderer-for-hire.
Charged with solicitation to commit a crime of violence and murder-for-hire, Ritenour faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison if convicted.
“I am just looking for a simple quick job,” prosecutors allege Ritenour wrote to the assumed hitman, next providing the make, model, and license plate of the intended victim’s car. She also attached photos of the target which were also passed along to law enforcement.
“The address of the person will be the best place to make the target, as it’s his workplace… I would say wait until he’s off at 3 and then make your move.”
Though indetectable to those generally unfamiliar with the darknet, the site employed by Ritenour contained language that is now considered to be boilerplate among those familiar with this particular scam. The scam itself is believed to be orchestrated by a lone actor or small group that operates several similarly-themed websites. They are also believed to have a journalist contact at BBC News.
As with several instances in the past, the news contact would then go on to notify the relevant authorities of potential harm being orchestrated against an individual in their jurisdiction, using evidence provided by the website admin in court against the perpetrator. In this case, prosecutors state that FBI in Knoxville, Tennessee, were tipped off by a “confidential human source” with information from the murder-for-hire website.
“We can kill any person you want, as long as it is not a president or very important person that is guarded by the military,” read the introduction page of the fake murder-for-hire website, going on to specify that they can “make the murder look accidental, so that police will not suspect anyone.”