How Not To Get Away With Murder: Hiring An Assassin
Any good true crime story takes us on a stroll down the darkest alleys of the human mind; to put ourselves in the mind of a killer and try to figure out how they did it and why. And then there are stories like this one, where every answer we seek about the killer’s motives and plans for getting away with it only leaves us with more questions, and nearly all of those questions are “Wait, what the hell?!?”
Instead of focusing on any one specific murder case, we’re gonna give an overview of one particular and frequently misunderstood type of homicide: Murder for hire. And by misunderstood, we basically mean almost all of the statistics we have available to us come solely from the plots that blew up in their faces in one way or another. We may not know how to get away with it, but we have enough examples of people who failed spectacularly at it. These are their stories (Law & Order dun-dunnn noise).
Wendy Wein Was Trapped by a Parody Website
Not much is known as to what exactly drove Wendy Wein to her breaking point and attempt to hire a hitman to kill her ex-husband. He has refused to talk to the press about it, and given the circumstances of her arrest, Wendy was too embarrassed to go into too much detail in court. Besides, the why, in this case, isn’t nearly as newsworthy as the how.
You see, while Wendy may have been more than willing to hire someone to kill her ex, she had no idea who to even ask for such services. So, she took to the internet. We’re not sure exactly how many tries or the exact search terms she must’ve Googled, but she eventually found herself on a website that seemed almost too good to be true: rentahitman.com.
To her, everything on the site seemed pretty legit. They claimed to be safe, secure, and confidential, with award-winning customer service and plenty of glowing reviews from past customers. Boasting to have a network of “over 17,985 U.S. based field operatives” who can work with anyone’s budget. The site also offered a free consultation, so Wendy filled out their service request form.
Now, if you spend more than 90 seconds looking at this site, you might think that someone would be as dense as osmium (shout out to our metallurgy geeks out there!) to fall for this parody site. On their homepage, they proudly claim to be HIPPA compliant, which they say stands for the “Hitman Information Privacy & Protection Act of 1964." Even the CEO’s name being listed as Guido Fanelli should’ve been a dead giveaway, as that’s the kind of name you’d get out of a random mafia name generator.
The Rent-A-Hitman website was started by Bob Innes in 2005 as part of a class project in an IT course. Once he was done with the class, he did absolutely nothing with it until three years later when he decided to check the inbox and found nearly 300 messages from people inquiring about hiring someone to take care of their problems.
So, Innes started monitoring any incoming messages, giving the more legitimate requests a 24-hour cooling-off period before “Guido” emailed them back to ask if they still required their services and wished to connect with one of their “field operatives.” If their answer was ever yes, then Innes would pass their information along to the authorities, and they would take it from there. That’s actually where the “over 17,985 U.S. based field operatives” claim on the website comes from: That’s roughly the number of police, FBI, and sheriff’s offices there are across the country.
And Wendy Wein fell for the ruse hook, line, and sinker. Michigan State Police set up an undercover sting operation to meet with Wendy and discuss the terms of the hit. She was willing to pay $5,000 to have her ex-husband killed and gave them $200 as a down payment. She was then arrested and later pleaded guilty to charges of solicitation of murder and illegal use of a computer to commit a crime. She expressed regret for her actions in court, right before being sentenced to 7-20 years in prison.
When handing down the sentence, Monroe Circuit Judge Daniel White said to Wendy, “If the intent wasn’t so serious here, this would be almost comical. But it’s not. Nobody looking at it could have believed this website was real, but you did. And this didn’t pop up on your Facebook feed, you went looking for it.” For reference, this is what she thought was real:
Despite how much news coverage the site receives and the efforts made to make it absolutely clear that the site is a joke, the Rent-A-Hitman website still receives legitimate requests from time to time. Frankly, more than one is still an unsettling amount. But hey, if these criminals are willing to fall for it, we’ll take it. And the fact that the only monetary reward Bob Innes is asking for is for people to support his coffee habit through merch sales, we’ll support that as well. Thanks, Bob!
Dalia Dippolito Falls for Every Possible Trick in the Book
After six months of marriage to her husband, Dalia Dippolito decided she was more in love with her husband Michael’s bank account than with him. And for her, divorce was definitely off the table. Why settle for half of his money at most when she could eliminate Michael from the equation (and this mortal coil) altogether?
So, she reached out to her ex-boyfriend Mohamed Shihadeh to see if he knew of anyone who could do the dirty work for her. Mohamed told her he knew a guy he could talk to about it. That someone ended up being the Boynton Beach Police Department. They got Mohamed to agree to meet up with Dalia while wearing a wire, and police set up a pinhole camera in his car as well.
Side note: There are more than enough undercover sting videos floating around out there for everyone to know this: If you’re planning on meeting up with someone to discuss anything illegal, never agree to meet up and talk in their car in a full parking lot. No one should be falling for this cliche anymore. The cops are always nearby taking pictures of you entering the vehicle, it’s ridiculously easy to place hidden cameras in a car you are not familiar with, and as anyone who posts videos themselves ranting about politics on social media will tell you, the acoustics inside of a parked car are amazing. Plus, if the cops decide to move in for an arrest, there’s no way for you to escape.
Dalia’s little car talk with Mohamed provided more than enough evidence for police to charge her with solicitation to commit murder. She explained why she wanted her husband dead. She told Mohamed that she was willing to pay $20,000 to the hitman and even handed him $12,000 cash right there in the car to pay his “guy” upfront.
But police took it a step further and set up a meeting between Dalia and an undercover officer posing as the hitman. There, they discussed the finer details of the planned hit. Dalia even said she would be willing to pay extra to have her husband killed in a public place. The undercover officer instead suggested a staged break-in at their home, to which Dalia reluctantly agreed. The officer even gave her one last opportunity to back out of the plan and asked her if she was sure she wanted to go through with this. She responded with, “I’m positive, like five thousand percent sure.”
Her only hesitation to this plan? Having a stranger inside her home. She trusted this guy enough to kill her husband but was also worried he might rob the place. So, on the day the hit was supposed to take place, she gathered up all of her jewelry in her handbag before leaving the house.
Once Dalia was clear of the house, police came to the house. Michael Dippolito was resting at home after receiving liposuction surgery, so in addition to the physical pain he was suffering, now he had cops informing him that his wife had put out a hit on him. On top of all that, these officers had a plan to stage a fake crime scene and take pictures of Michael covered in fake blood to give it that extra level of authenticity. Why so extra? Because the camera crews from COPS were currently in town, and they smelled ratings gold.
So, once the stage was set, a police officer called Dalia on her cellphone and explained that there had been an incident with her husband and asked her to return home immediately. The camera crew got a perfect shot of the moment Dalia was informed that her husband was “dead”, and she played the part of the shocked, grieving widow to a T.
Police took Dalia back to the station to ask her some questions. At one point, they brought in the undercover officer she had spoken to in the car, complete with jail scrubs and handcuffs, just to see her reaction when they asked her if she recognized the man. When she denied knowing him, detectives dropped the act. They told her they had everything on camera, she was busted, and her husband was still alive. In a desperate attempt to change the subject, she tried to whip up some more fake tears (of joy this time) and asked if she could see her husband. Obviously, Michael had no interest in seeing her.
Throughout every trial, appeals, and retrial, Dalia Dippolito has tried using every excuse imaginable to paint herself as the victim. One of her latest stories was to claim that Michael was in on the whole thing and that they were using the cops in an effort to land their own reality show. But all of her excuses failed. She was found guilty and sentenced to 16 years in prison. When asked how he felt about the verdict, Michael said he was “five thousand percent happy” with it. Solid callback, Michael.
Details are Important
Let us be clear, we are emphatically NOT suggesting or recommending that anyone hire a hitman to solve any of their problems. Buuuut… if we were to entertain the idea as a hypothetical thought exercise for just a moment, we would still be putting way more thought behind it than some of the bizarre murder-for-hire plots we’ve found.
One detail Euri Jenkins of Palm Beach, Florida, failed to consider: double-checking the paperwork first. Jenkins hired a hitman to murder his wife in order to receive $500,000 from her life insurance policy… only to find out after the murder that he was not listed as the beneficiary.
Then there’s the lesson of learning how to communicate clearly and maybe provide a photo, as was the case of Kevin Lewis of Lynnwood, Washington, who paid his cousin $2,400 to murder his ex-wife… and they mistakenly killed her sister instead. Another lesson from this case: Keep this shit off of social media. Because the key piece of evidence against the man who pulled the trigger were pictures of him flashing that stack of cash on his social media just hours before the murder took place.
And as if hiring a hitman wasn’t enough of a high-risk outsourcing scenario, there’s Tan Youhui of the Guangxi region of China. He wanted a man who was suing him dead, so he hired a hitman to get rid of him in exchange for two million yuan (~$280,000 USD). That hitman then farmed the task out to another hitman for one million yuan, who then hired a different hitman for 270,000 yuan, who turned around and hired a fourth hitman for 100,000 yuan. The last guy in this daisy chain of subcontractors got cold feet, so he met with the target personally, told him about the hit, and convinced him to fake his own death.
Another thing we’ve learned from a lot of these stories is: The chances of the hitman being an undercover cop is directly proportional to how low the money being offered is. Hiring an assassin shouldn’t be this much of a buyer’s market, people. If you find that the killer is willing to accept a lowball offer without any attempt at negotiating, you’re about 30 seconds from being arrested. A New Jersey man just last month was told there was a guy who would kill a girl in Texas for him for 15 bucks… Hell, the drive alone would cost at least $300 in gas.
One Texas teenager (who claimed to have a 131 IQ) was trying to get rid of a romantic rival and tried to offer the hitman games, three dollar bills, and $2.30 in nickels and dimes. The kid literally tried to nickel-and-dime the guy.
Here's something that's popped up far too often in our research: offering a hitman sexual favors in lieu of money. Just… Don’t. We don't care how good you think you are in bed, but it's not worth killing for, and it sure as hell ain't worth possible jail time. That's just too much risk for such little reward. Your genitalia isn't the goddamn Soul Stone.
A Frightening Lack of Exact Data
As we said at the start, nearly every statistic we have about murder-for-hire comes from those who completely screwed the pooch. We know that professional hits do occur, like with the mafia, but those instances typically get lumped in with organized crime statistics. And anyone who is successful in getting away with a contract killing isn’t exactly sharing any secrets.
But here’s what we do know based on the very limited sample sizes of the very few studies that have been conducted over the years: Pretty much zip. There was a 2010 federal study of 958 murder investigations in the United States that found that 31 of them (3.23%) were charged with the use of interstate commerce facilities in the commission of murder-for-hire. Two similar studies out of Australia found that their rates were 2% and 4%, respectively. A study of murder motives in Scotland from 1993 to 2002 put their murder-for-hire rate at around 5%, although the fact that enough contract killings happened there to warrant its own category doesn’t do much to dispel the stereotype about the Scots holding grudges.
Even those who monitor Dark Web activity for data on possible gig-seeking contract killers can’t validate much of what they find because A) keeping yourself anonymous is kinda the point of being on the Dark Web, and B) fake hitman scams are apparently all over the place there. Scammers pose as professional assassins, people contact them to arrange the hit. The clients are told that the plan will proceed as soon as the crypto payment is confirmed, and the “hitman” insists on radio silence from that point forward. And then, nothing happens. The person they wanted dead remains alive, the money’s gone, and there’s not a damn thing they can do about it.
Not to say that the underground online assassins idea is necessarily a myth. Blogger Chris Monteiro went down the Dark Web rabbit hole thinking he was gonna find nothing but scammers. Instead, he soon uncovered enough frighteningly credible information that necessitated sharing it with law enforcement. He’s even compiled a spreadsheet of 282 active investigations and arrests on murder-for-hire plots he has facilitated. 54 of them were from the U.S. Yet another awkward first-place trophy for America’s shelf.
CORRECTION: In a previous version of this article, we misinterpreted Chris Monteiro’s work as being compiled from public arrest reports, when his data was actually the result of his own investigations. We apologize for the error.
I guess the most important takeaway is this: If you ever find yourself in such a situation where you feel your only way out of your problems is to hire a hitman, take just a fraction of the money you’re setting aside for that purpose and spend it on something that will take your mind off of, you know, murder. Take a vacation, have a spa day, eat an entire cake by yourself, adopt a dog, rent a Jet ski, or better yet… THERAPY.
Dan Fritschie is a writer, comedian, and frequent over-thinker. He can be found on Twitter, and he thanks you for your time.
Top image: Vchal/Shutterstock