Woman jailed after RentaHitman.com assassin turned out to be – surprise – FBI
18 months in the slammer no laughing matter, but the rest... maybe
A 34-year-old woman has been jailed for 18 months after trying to use Rentahitman.com – no, really – to pay a contract killer to eliminate a rival she was beefing with. Her would-be assassin-for-hire unsurprisingly turned out to be an FBI agent.
Zandra Ellis, of New Orleans, earlier pleaded guilty to transmitting threatening communications in interstate commerce and was sentenced by a US district judge on October 31. After serving time in the clink, Ellis will spend an additional three years under supervised release and pay a mandatory special assessment fee of $100.
And, we hope, she will stay far away from any websites purporting to provide murder-for-hire services.
On June 3 last year Ellis submitted a request via the aforementioned dot-com using the pseudonym "Jasmine Brown," according to court documents.
Ellis also entered her real email address, which still indicated it belonged to Zandra Ellis, not Jasmine Brown, along with her actual phone number and physical address. In the section of the form that asks, "describe what services you would like performed," she indicated she wanted to kill a woman identified as "BH."
"I would like her dead since she is trying to kill me," Ellis, aka Brown, wrote, according to court documents [PDF]. She also submitted BH's phone number, address, and Instagram account info.
However, Rentahitman.com wasn't a real hitman-for-hire site and is simply a well-constructed parody. Note to would-be criminals: overtly illegal activities are rarely offered on the public internet; even on dark web, things like contract assassins tend to be undercover Feds as well.
The dot-com even claimed, and still claims, to be "100% HIPPA Compliant (Hitman Information Privacy & Protection Act of 1964)." The website's privacy statement apparently linked directly to the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center at one point, too, according to the prosecution. The humor seemed to have been lost on Ellis.
Right now the site states, "We are temporarily ceasing operations," in big red lettering, which may help other murder-minded netizens avoid a similar fate. Maybe?
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After receiving a murder-for-hire request from Ellis, the dot-com's webmaster, identified in court documents as "RI," asked Ellis if she wanted a free consultation with a field operative. She said yes. RI also asked why her email address indicated her name was Zandra Ellis, not Jasmine Brown.
According to prosecutors, Ellis replied: "I didn't want my real name out just in case this isn't real or if it comes back to me or so I wouldn't go to jail for wanting something like this done. I just didn't want it to fall back on me."
Shortly after, RI called in the big guns, notifying the FBI National Threat Operations Center that Ellis was trying to hire a hitman to commit an actual murder.
On July 5, an undercover FBI agent called Ellis. He told Ellis his name was "Ace" and asked if she was ready to "make that move." Ellis told him it depended on the price.
The two settled on $1,000 for the hit, with Ellis paying $100 up front, and then agreed to meet at a Waffle House in New Orleans so Ellis could make the down payment.
Clandestine meeting … at Waffle House
Ellis showed up at the restaurant on July 6 with her small child in a stroller, and took a seat at the counter next to Ace, who was carrying a recording device.
According to court documents, Ellis told the undercover agent she had "been feuding with BH over social media because the two women had children by the same male who was not identified by name. Ellis maintained that if someone wanted her and her unborn child dead that they had to go."
She also told the undercover g-man that her real name was Zandra Ellis, confirmed she wanted BH killed, paid him $100 for the hit, and agreed to pay the remaining balance in $250 installments every two weeks.
The agent asked Ellis "if she had something to protect herself," to which she reportedly glanced at her backpack and told him "when you see me with this I'm always strapped."
Ellis was cuffed as she left the Waffle House, and at the time of her arrest was in possession of a Ruger pistol containing live rounds. ®