A Wisconsin woman used a murder-for-hire site on the darkweb to have someone killed, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
On February 8, 2021, Kelly Harper, 37, was charged in federal court with using the internet to hire someone to commit murder. She was arrested on Friday, February 5, after the target of the murder-for-hire plot and three journalists tipped off local law enforcement and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
An officer with the Sun Prairie Police Department responded to a suspicious person call at a residence in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. At the residence, the intended victim and a local journalist (Journalist #1) were talking about the murder-for-hire with two other journalists. The local journalist and intended victim were participating in a videoconference with two journalists (Journalist #2 & #3) who were working on a story about murder-for-hire on the darkweb.
During the investigation by the remote journalists, they uncovered message logs between the purported administrator of a murder-for-hire site on the darkweb and one of the site’s clients. The client had contacted the site to hire a hitman to kill someone in Wisconsin. The criminal complaint did not disclose the nature of the relationship between Harper and the intended victim.
The journalists provided the responding officer with a document summarizing the murder-for-hire plot. The document included chat logs dating from December 3, 2020, to December 10, 2020. All of the chats included in the document related to the defendant and her plot to have another person killed.
For example, in a chat dated December 3, 2020, the defendant sent the intended victim’s name and address to the site administrator. The message stated, “The target needs to be killed, he is a white 5 foot 5 male, dark brown short hair, blue eyes, weighs 165 pounds…” The defendant included details about the intended victim’s vehicle, place of employment, cell phone number. Later messages included pictures of the intended victim as well as pictures of his vehicle.
The administrator of the site asked the defendant for proof of payment in the form of Bitcoin. The defendant responded to the request by sending the administrator a screenshot of a Bitcoin wallet with an approximate value of $5,633.
One day after the intended victim met with the local journalist and local police about the murder-for-hire plot, his girlfriend filed a complaint with the FBI’s National Threat Operations Center. The girlfriend provided the FBI with the same information the intended victim had shared with local police.
FBI Special Agent Bryan Baker interviewed three journalists about the case–Journalist #2, Journalist #3, and one additional journalist (journalist #4) who seemingly had a working relationship with the FBI. All three journalists verified the accuracy of the information provided by the girlfriend of the intended victim.
Per the criminal complaint:
The journalists explained that, while investigating a murder-for-hire dark web site located outside of Wisconsin, they identified [the defendant] as a person who wanted to kill [the intended victim]. Through an analysis of the chats between [the defendant] and the murder-for-hire site administrator, the journalists identified an October 19, 2020 bitcoin transfer from [the defendant] to the administrator of a second murder-for-hire dark web site. The journalists included their bitcoin analysis in the document they provided to [the defendant].
An analyst from the FBI’s Money Laundering, Forfeiture, and Bank Fraud Unit reviewed the bitcoin transfer provided by the journalists and identified an IP address, email account, and telephone number associated with [the defendant]’s bitcoin wallet. Through the use of grand jury subpoenas, I determined that the IP address, email account, and telephone number were associated with Kelly Harper. 7. On February 5, 2021, agents from the FBI’s Milwaukee Field Office executed a federal search warrant at Harper’s residence in Columbus, Columbia County, Wisconsin. During the search, agents found screenshots from a murder-for-hire dark web site, as well as one of the pictures [the defendant] sent to the murder-for-hire site administrator.
Special Agent Baker interviewed Harper while law enforcement searched her house. During the interview, Harper admitted using Bitcoin to pay a hitman on the darkweb to kill the intended victim.
Harper is currently in custody at the Dane County Jail. If convicted, Harper faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison.