A California man will spend five years in prison for trying to hire a hitman using the darkweb.
Scott Quinn Berkett, 25, was sentenced to five years in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release after pleading guilty to using interstate facilities to commit murder for hire.
The sentencing guidelines call for a sentence of 87 to 108 months in prison.
Prosecutors wrote in a sentencing agreement:
“Defendant’s crime was not a momentary lapse of judgment, but a premeditated plot to kill the victim because she rejected his advances. While attempting to take a life is atrocious enough, Defendant’s chosen method of carrying out the crime — using the Dark Web to hire a hitman and cryptocurrency — speaks to his sophistication, meticulous planning, and attempts to anonymize his illegal conduct.”
Berkett met the intended victim online. After she flew from her home state to LA to have sex with Berkett, she ignored Berkett’s messages. Berkett tried to contact the woman through different social media platforms in an attempt to get a response.
Eventually, a family member of the intended victim sent a text message to Berkett’s father’s phone number, asking him to tell Berkett to end all contact with the woman.
Later, an investigative media organization discovered Berkett’s attempt to hire a hitman on the darkweb to kill the intended victim. The media outlet forwarded the information to the FBI. The FBI used blockchain analytics software to identify Berkett as a suspect. He had purchased $13,000 worth of Bitcoin through Coinbase, which he sent to the murder-for-hire site to complete the hit.
An undercover FBI agent then contacted Berkett over WhatsApp and convinced him to admit to hiring the hitman, resulting in Berkett’s eventual arrest.
“The recommendation outside the guidelines was based on the mental health challenges Berkett faces and the extremely social isolation he endured during the Covid-19 pandemic that led to his actions, his attorney Evan Jenness said at the hearing.”
“This is a particularly difficult crime,” given that it could have ended much worse if Berkett had hired an actual hitman rather than an FBI agent impersonating one, U.S. District Judge Mark Scarsi said in an agreeing to the recommended sentence. “Five years is a long time for someone your age.”
“The judge rejected the prosecution’s request to fine Berkett $20,000, saying he’d rather have him leave prison with a clean slate.”