A Beverly Hills suspect was behind bars Saturday on a murder-for-hire charge for allegedly making Bitcoin payments of $13,000 to hire a “hitman” to kill a woman he briefly dated and who had repeatedly tried to break off the relationship.
But the suspect may have been shocked when he learned his hired hitman was really an undercover FBI agent.
In a scheme that sounded as if it were from a trite mystery movie, Scott Q. Berkett, 24, was arrested Friday without incident after being charged in a federal criminal complaint that alleges he sent the cybercurrency to arrange the murder and then wired another $1,000 to the so-called hitman, who was actually an undercover FBI agent, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
According to an affidavit in support of the charge, Berkett met the woman online last year, and she flew to Los Angeles to meet him in late October. The woman — who is not named in court papers — described Berkett’s behavior as “sexually aggressive” and tried on several occasions to break off the relationship following the October trip, the affidavit alleges.
In April, a family member of the woman who had learned that Berkett continued to contacther called and sent text messages to Berkett’s father’s phone, and, on April 20, Berkett appears to have responded, saying “consider this matter closed,” according to papers filed in Los Angeles federal court.
However, Berkett allegedly contacted a group on the dark web that advertised murder-for-hire services. While law enforcement believes that the dark web group was set up to fleece people out of funds, the group contacted a media outlet, which provided information to the FBI, including messages from Berkett, who was using a screenname of “Ula77,” and documentation of payments by Berkett, according to the affidavit.
The media outlet provided “transaction information from an unnamed source on the dark web that showed that Bitcoin payments were made with an understanding that an unknown individual would murder” the woman, the affidavit alleges.
“The information provided was specific about the identity and location of (the woman), as well as social media accounts, nicknames, email, and a distinctive tattoo (on her body),” according to the affidavit.
Berkett allegedly submitted his order for the hit on April 28, writing to the dark web group: “I’d 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.”
The information provided to the FBI indicated that Berkett allegedly made Bitcoin payments of $13,000 between April 5 and May 5.
An undercover FBI agent, posing as a hitman, made contact with Berkett two days ago and eventually sent a photo of the woman, which Berkett allegedly confirmed was the would-be victim, according to the affidavit. During the discussions with the purported hitman, Berkett allegedly demanded a proof-of-death photo that would show the corpse and her distinctive tattoo.
Berkett made the final $1,000 payment via Western Union late Thursday afternoon, the affidavit states.
Berkett is expected to make his initial appearance in Los Angeles federal court on Monday. If convicted of the murder-for-hire count, he would face up to 10 years in federal prison.