The hearing for a California man accused of attempting to hire a hitman on the darkweb has been rescheduled for June 2022.
The change of plea hearing for Scott Berkett, 25, of Beverly Hills, has been rescheduled for June 13, 2020. Berkett was charged with using interstate facilities to commit murder-for-hire. According to court documents, Berkett tried to hire a hitman on the darkweb to kill someone.
Berkett has agreed to plead guilty to one count of the murder-for-hire charge in exchange for a reduced sentence. Prosecutors will seek a sentence of no more than five years in prison.
According to the criminal complaint, Berkett met a woman through a Facebook group. He flew the woman to California for a visit. Berkett paid for her hotel during this trip. During the trip, the victim slept with Berkett.
Later, after she returned from her trip, she attempted to end the relationship with Berkett. She told FBI investigators:
“Berkett became very possessive and began constantly messaging Victim 1 on multiple social media and communications platforms. When Victim 1 did not respond to a message on one platform, Berkett would find another way to message her.”
Later, a media organization contacted the FBI with information about a “threat to life.”
“The Complainants provided the name and address of Victim 1, who was named as a target in a murder-for-hire. The Complainants were able to provide transaction information from an unnamed source on the Dark Web (“Dark Web Group”) that showed that Bitcoin payments were made with an understanding that an unknown individual would murder Victim. The information provided was specific about the identity and location of Victim 1, as well as social media accounts, nicknames, email, and a distinctive tattoo of Victim 1.”
On April 28, 2021, Berkett sent $13,000 in Bitcoin to the murder-for-hire site and included information about the victim. The order description:
like it to look like an accident, but robbery gone wrong may work better. So long as she is dead. I’d also like for her phone to be retrieved and destroyed irreparably in the process. I would like proof of her death sent to me. She has a distinctive tattoo on one of her forearms that I know the image of, so a photo of her corpse and a photo of her tattoo for identification would work. I’ll refrain from sending a picture of the tattoo to avoid doctored photos. If possible, letting me know if she was in Arizona or Idaho wuld also be appreciated so I can also verify via the obituaries.”
Through the use of blockchain analytics software, investigators learned that the defendant had paid for the hit with a Coinbase-hosted Bitcoin wallet. Records from Coinbase identified Berkett as the Coinbase user who had sent the payment to the murder-for-hire site.
On May 19, 2021, an undercover law enforcement agent contacted Berkett through WhatsApp, purporting to be the hitman Berkett had contracted on the murder-for-hire site. The agent sent Berkett a picture of the victim inside a Walmart store. Berkett incriminated himself in the conversation that ensued.
UC: “Hi. You got the pictures?”
UC: “Yeah. So, I’m following up on uh, something that was started a little while ago. Um. I’m just making contact with you.”
Berkett: “Okay. I was actually surprised to get, get that through WhatsApp.”
UC: “I know. We switch things up every once in a while. We’ll pick another one after this.”
Berkett: “Okay, sounds good. Yeah, it seems to be the person. Uh, can’t recognize them about, can’t recognize them as well because of the graininess but, yeah that looks, that looks like them.”
UC: “That’s, that’s her, right?”
Berkett: “Yeah, that’s her.”
Berkett confirmed the person in the picture was the intended victim.
UC: “Confirming that’s the person that we talked about on the uh, on the other piece, right?”
UC: “Okay. And you’ve already made, you’re already made the uh, the uh… the B payment, right?”
Berkett: “Yeah, I’ve already done that.”
UC: “Okay, good.”
Berkett: “That was confirmed by uh… yeah.”
The undercover agent got Berkett talking about the details of the hit.
UC: “Good. Alright, so my understanding is what has to get done is this has to get done, uh we’re looking at some kind of accident or robbery to have gone wrong, right?”
Berkett: “That way it doesn’t get traced.”
UC: “Right, and then we need to work on making sure your alibi is good. Um, and then we need some, you want some kind of proof, and there’s, if I’m, if I’m getting the information right, it’s some kind of phone that needs to be taken care of as well, right?”
Berkett: “Uh, proof of the uh tattoo on her, one of her forearms.”
UC: “Okay. Do you want, is there, do you want that tattoo? Is that part of this?”
Berkett: “Just need a picture of it to verify.”
UC: “Okay, do you, do you want it? Do you, is that, what kind of souvenir do you need, or do you need one?”
Berkett: “Uh, just the photo…”
UC: “Just the photo.”
Berkett: “…of the tattoo.”
UC: “Okay, so”
Berkett: “It’s distinctive enough that I don’t need a souvenir.”
The undercover agent also convinced Berkett to send him $1,000 via Western Union. Police conducted surveillance at Berkett’s house and followed him to a store, where they watched Berkett bring cash to a counter. Later, Berkett messaged the UC on WhatsApp, “Done. 5350546096.” Investigators later confirmed through the Western Union website that the money had been transferred and was ready for pick up.
Berkett has agreed to enter a guilty plea but will not be able to do so until his next court appearance on June 13, 2022.