Inside the dark web’s online murder-for-hire scams

Assassination marketplaces on the deep web have all but been exposed as a scam, but that doesn’t mean some people aren’t dying because of it.

“They say that Besa means trust, so please do not break that…” Stephen Allwine emailed (under a pseudonym) to a person he knew only as Yura. “I need this b*tch dead.”

As far as deep-web murder services go, Besa Mafia seemed a fair $6k+ bet to the former Minnesota-based IT technician: According to Wired, Besa’s mystery admin has alleged ties to the Albanian mob — and the site’s homepage featured a photo of a man holding a gun next to these words: 

“If you want to kill someone, or to beat the shit out of him, we are the right guys.” See… totally legit. 

As it turns out, Besa Mafia (estimated to have pulled in over $6.4m in crypto since it began) and the many kill-sites like it on the dark web have long proved to be more about the racket than an actual murder-for-hire site — a “take the money and run” sort of deal. 

But Allwine didn’t figure that out — an oversight that ultimately landed him life in prison.

A boost from bitcoin

The idea of an anonymous crowdfunded assassination market was originally dreamed up as a Kickstarter for political assassinations by the 1990s cypherpunk movement.

It wasn’t until bitcoin’s popularity surged between 2010 and 2013 that deep-web “murder scams” began to boom. And it only took a few years of the sick and twisted consumer getting pilfered by vigilante hackers like Yura to figure out that silencer-bearing hitmen don’t actually exist on the other side of the market.

That doesn’t mean people haven’t taken the dirt

Around the time of Allwine’s 2016 plot, cyber crime reporter Chris Monteiro infiltrated Besa’s website, confirmed that the whole operation was a scam, and ultimately helped shut it down for good.

But, when Stephen Allwine’s wife, Amy (AKA the “b*tch” he wanted offed) was found dead, Monteiro went back to investigate. 

The DIY approach

During the investigation Monteiro came across Dogdaygod (Allwine’s pen name), which led the police to find evidence that linked Stephen to his wife’s slaying.

Monteiro also found a list of several other cases of Besa targets that wound up dead — To this day, no one knows Yura’s true identity. 

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