Handcuffs and gavel on wooden surface

Woman behind BTC murder-for-hire plot faces 10 years in prison

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has announced the sentencing of Jessica Leeann Sledge of Pelahatchie, Mississippi, to 10 years in prison for “using interstate commerce facilities in the commission of a murder-for-hire.” 

This is according to a DOJ press release by United States Attorney Darren, J. LaMarca, and Special Agent in charge Jermicha Fomby of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Jackson Field Office on behalf of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Mississippi.

Per the release, Sledge, 40, made three payments totaling $10,000 in BTC to a purported “hitman” she found through the dark web between September and November 2021.

Unknown to her, the hitman was an FBI special agent. She was arrested on November 1 in Brandon, Mississippi, when the agent arranged for them to meet to finalize the details of the murder plot.

Following her arrest, she waived her rights and pleaded guilty to using the internet, her phone, and the WhatsApp application to arrange to hire an assassin, authorities said. The intended victim was unharmed.

She was sentenced by United States District Judge Carlton W. Reeves. In addition to the 10 years sentence, Sledge will also pay a fine of $1,000 and will spend three years on supervised release. Her BTC payment to the federal agent would be worth around $5,800 at today’s prices.

Digital assets continue to get a bad rep from involvement in crimes 

This is far from the first murder-for-hire case involving Bitcoin the FBI has cracked down on. Back in June, Scott Quinn Berkett, 25, pleaded guilty to one count of use of interstate facilities to commit murder-for-hire.

Like Sledge, Berkett’s victim was also unharmed after the purported assassins he contacted on the dark web leaked his details to the press, which ultimately landed it on the FBI’s desk.

An FBI investigation last year also traced a murder-for-hire payment to the Coinbase (NASDAQ: COIN) account of Nelson Replogle, a Tennessee man who was arranging for his wife to be murdered. Meanwhile, Ross Ulbricht’s high-profile Silk Road case also includes murder-for-hire charges.

In addition to the host of other cyber crimes, including investment scams, pyramid schemes, ransomware payments, money laundering, tax and sanction evasion, and rug pulls that digital assets have been affiliated with have been used by regulators to call for stricter policing of the industry.

Watch: U.S. Congressman Bill Foster on Bitcoin Association’s Blockchain Policy Matters

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