LOS ANGELES (CN) — A Beverly Hills man pleaded guilty to trying to hire a hitman to kill a woman who didn't want to see him anymore after they had spent a few days together.
Scott Quinn Berkett, 25, on Monday pleaded guilty to using interstate facilities to commit murder for hire. Although the maximum sentence for this crime is 10 years in prison, prosecutors have agreed to ask for no more than 5 years.
U.S. District Judge Mark Scarsi set a sentencing date for Sept. 12 and explained that he wasn't bound by the agreement between Berkett and the government when it comes to imposing a sentence.
"I understand that," Berkett replied.
Berkett, an IT engineer, and the woman had met online through a Facebook fan page for the RWBY anime series. After messaging and talking on the phone for a few months, the woman flew to Los Angeles in October 2020 for a thee-day visit with Berkett, who she had never met in person before.
Berkett paid for a hotel near the Beverly Hills house where he lived with his parents, and according to an FBI affidavit, he became "sexually aggressive" with her and she felt pressured into having sex with him.
After the trip, the woman tried to end the relationship, but Berkett refused to accept the breakup and became very possessive and constantly messaged her, according to the FBI, using different social media platforms if she didn't respond to him.
This went on until April the following year, when a family member of the woman got in touch with Berkett's father to get him to stop contacting her. At that point, Berkett texted that he had blocked her from all social media and that he considered the matter closed.
That wasn't true, however, because days later Berkett had gotten in touch with a group called the "Internet Killers" on the so-called Dark Web that advertised murder-for-hire services. Not knowing that the group was a scam, he provided the woman's personal information and paid them $13,000 in bitcoin to have her killed. He also asked for her murder to look like an accident or a robbery gone wrong and for her phone to be retrieved and destroyed irreparably.
“I would like proof of her death sent to me," he instructed the group. "She has a distinctive tattoo on one of her forearms that I know the image of, so a photo of her corpse and a photo of her tattoo for identification would work.."
The Dark Web group informed an unidentified investigative media group, which in turn alerted the FBI to Berkett's plot.
An undercover FBI agent, posing as a hitman, contacted Berkett over WhatsApp and sent him a photo of the woman in a Walmart, asking if she was the intended victim and discussing further details of the requested murder. The undercover agent also instructed Berkett to wire an additional $1,000 to an individual in Scottsdale, Arizona, which he did. He was arrested the next day when he went to a grocery to establish an alibi, thinking the hit would take place that day.
After his arrest, Berkett admitted using the Dark Web and Bitcoin, knowing where the woman lived in Idaho and where her sister lived in Arizona, according to court filings. He also claimed to have multiple personalities, one of which he identified as violent, according to the government.
Berkett has been in custody since his arrest after the government argued that the sophisticated and obsessive nature of his murder plot made him a danger to the woman and the community. While in jail, prosecutors allege, Berkett offered cash to an unidentified individual to get in touch with the Dark Web group to make it appear he had been framed by another person.
Berkett faces a maximum possible sentence of 10 years in prison. According to the plea agreement, the government's reserves its right to appeal the sentence if it's less than five years, whereas Berkett will be allowed to appeal if he's sentenced to more than five years.
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