A New Jersey man pleaded guilty this week to paying $20,000 in bitcoin to have a 14-year-old boy killed to prevent the teen from testifying against him in a child porn case.
John Michael Musbach, 31, exchanged sexually explicit photos and videos with the boy, then 13 and living in New York, until the teen’s parents found out and contacted police. the US Department of Justice said. Musbach was arrested in March 2016 and pleaded guilty to child porn charges the following year.
But between the time he learned he was being investigated and his conviction, Musbach contacted the notorious dark web site Besa Mafia, which purported to carry out murder for hire and other illicit, violent schemes for bitcoin, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
“The target would be 14. Is that an acceptable age or too young?” he asked the proprietors of the website in one message, according to court documents. “I can budget up to $20k for the order.”
He and the website agreed on the $20,000 price, paid in bitcoin, and he repeatedly messaged the site afterward to find out if the killing had taken place. The website asked him for another $5,000 and then told him, “Our website is a scam,” when he tried to cancel the order and get his $20,000 back.
Federal agents learned about Musbach’s attempt to arrange the murder for hire scheme in 2019, after a data leak allowed researchers to view the site’s “kill list” of people someone wanted dead, Gizmodo reported — although it isn’t clear if the leak was how the agents learned about Musbach’s activities. Gizmodo reported that at least two of the people on that list were murder victims, but the alleged killers were the people who initially contacted Besa Mafia.
In April last year, the government of Romania announced that it had arrested five men who were allegedly the administrators of the website.
Musbach was charged with “knowingly and intentionally using and causing another to use a facility of interstate and foreign commerce, that is the internet, with the intent that a murder be committed,” the Department of Justice said. He faces up to 10 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines when he is sentenced on June 13.
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[Featured image: John Michael Musbach/Salem County Jail]