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Dr. James Wan, a Georgia-based physician, entered a guilty plea for using Bitcoin to organize a murder-for-hire plot via the dark web. The sinister plot, which he thought was veiled by the pseudonymous nature of Bitcoin, involved hiring a hitman to make it look like his girlfriend had died in a carjacking gone wrong.
Wan is now awaiting sentencing before a federal court in January 2024.
The DOJ says his venture into the dark web began in April 2022, when he started meticulously arranging for his girlfriend's murder by providing extensive details, ranging from her Facebook account to her vehicle's description. The contract was to be sealed with multiple Bitcoin payments, which totaled around $24,200, after Wan had to resend a payment because he'd used the wrong crypto wallet address.
The operation didn't go as smoothly as Dr. Wan might have hoped. Initially, he attempted to secure the murder-for-hire contract by transferring a 50% down payment, approximately $8,000 worth of Bitcoin, to an escrow wallet. However, this initial transaction went awry, as the funds were sent to an incorrect wallet address.
A week later, Wan sent another $8,000 Bitcoin transaction to make sure the escrow account contained enough money for the contract to be completed. Then, the DOJ said, he started asking questions in the marketplace's forum: “How soon should work be done? I have submitted an Order and curious how quickly it should be carried out? Is there a way I can find out any progress? If there is anyone in my location?”
Despite his impatience, the plot was never carried out.
"Despite his cowardly concealment on the dark web, Wan’s cold hearted murderous plot was averted due to the exceptional work of our team. He will now face the full consequences of the criminal justice system,” Keri Farley, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta, said in a press release.
Wan isn't the first instance of someone using Bitcoin in an attempt to hire a hitman. In 2021, the FBI charged a 41-year-old Utah man after he paid $16,000 in Bitcoin for a double murder. The same year, an Italian man transferred €10,000 ($12,000) in cryptocurrency for an assault on his ex-girlfriend, specifying that he wanted the hitman to "throw acid in her face, but without blinding her."
Earlier this year, a Nevada woman was sentenced to 5 years in prison for using Bitcoin to hire a hitman to kill her ex-husband. Another woman in Tennessee was indicted in June for attempting to hire a hitman—who asked to be paid in Bitcoin—to kill the wife of a friend she met on Match.com.