U.S. DOJ announces sentencing in bitcoin murder-for-hire scheme

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U.S. DOJ announces sentencing in bitcoin murder-for-hire scheme

Last month, the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey announced that John Michael Musbach was sentenced to 78 months in prison for paying $20,000 in bitcoin to have a 14-year old child murdered.

According to court documents, in the summer of 2015, Musbach exchanged via the internet sexually explicit photographs and videos with the victim, a 13-year-old living in New York. The victim’s parents found out about the inappropriate contact and contacted the local police. Upon identifying Musbach, then a resident of Atlantic County, New Jersey, New York law enforcement officers reached out to the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office (ACPO). In March 2016, officers from the ACPO arrested Musbach on child pornography charges and executed a search warrant at his residence, then in Galloway, New Jersey.

Musbach decided to have the victim killed so that the victim could not testify against him in the pending criminal case. During the period from May 7, 2016, through May 20, 2016, Musbach repeatedly communicated with the administrator of a murder-for-hire website, which operated on the darknet, and which purported to offer contract killings or other acts of violence in return for payment in cryptocurrency, and arranged for a murder-for-hire. Musbach asked if a 14-year-old was too young to target, and upon hearing that the age was not a problem, paid approximately 40 bitcoin (approximately $20,000 at the time) for the hit. 

HSI used blockchain intelligence to trace the bitcoin payment from a compliant exchange to the murder-for-hire deposit address. With information provided by the compliant exchange, HSI was able to secure a warrant that led to the arrest, and ultimately a guilty plea, in this case.

This case is another example of the work of federal and local law enforcement coordination from special agents of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) from Newark New Jersey and St. Paul, Minnesota, as well as assistance from the Atlantic County New Jersey Prosecutor’s Office.

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