Southern Utah man indicted for allegedly hiring hit man to kill 2 people

Stock image of U.S. District Court in Albany New York, | Photo by Demerzel21/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — A Utah man is in custody in Washington County after he was indicted in federal court for allegedly using the internet to solicit a contract killing of two individuals in New York.

U.S. District Court in Albany, New York, date of photo not specified | Photo courtesy of U.S. Courts, St. George News

According to the complaint, 41-year-old Christopher Pence, has been charged with one count of the use of interstate commerce facilities in the commission of a murder-for-hire.

The charge stems from an investigation that began in September when the FBI field office in Albany, New York, received information that a darknet user had allegedly paid $16,000 in cryptocurrency to have two individuals killed, neither of whom were hurt.

Authorities say the suspect was using a computer in Utah to solicit the services over the darknet, and that both individuals that were targeted to be murdered lived in Rensselaer County, New York. 

The information was then turned over to the FBI, and during the investigation, agents discovered that between mid-July and Aug. 8, an individual made several attempts to hire a hitman, “to kill real individuals using the same Darknet website,” the agents noted in the complaint. 

The suspect also reportedly provided the individuals’ names and addresses and sent photos of the intended victims, as well as details relating to the manner in which the killing should take place. The user began transferring the $16,000, as requested, in a series of payments using Bitcoin. 

Using the subscriber information provided during the transactions, agents were able to determine the identity of the user, which federal prosecutors allege turned out to be Pence, who lived at an address on South 6500 West in Cedar City, the complaint states.   

During the investigation, agents discovered there was some type of dispute between Pence and the two intended victims, and while executing a search warrant of the suspect’s residence, agents reportedly seized a number of electronic devices and other evidence. 

A statement released by the U.S. Attorney’s Office states the complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York. On Oct. 27, Pence was arrested and booked into jail in Washington County. 

A magistrate judge in Utah ordered that Pence remain in custody until he is transferred to federal custody in New York where the case was filed. 

If convicted, the penalty for the charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, and a term of supervised release of up to three years.

Ed. Note: A new Utah law generally prohibits the release of arrest booking photos until after a conviction is obtained. 

This report is based on statements from court records, police or other responders and may not contain the full scope of findings. Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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