Utah Man Allegedly Paid Hitmen Bitcoin to Kill Two People Amid Custody Battle

A Utah man was recently accused of paying hitmen in the cryptocurrency Bitcoin for the murder of two people amid a custody battle.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in the Northern District of New York announced the charges against 41-year-old Christopher Pence, of Cedar City, Utah, on Friday. According to a press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office, Pence "was indicted last week for using the Internet to solicit and pay for the murders of two individuals in Rensselaer County."

According to a criminal complaint filed against Pence, the FBI first received information about Pence's alleged actions from a confidential source on September 2. The criminal complaint said that the confidential source told the FBI that they had obtained "communications purportedly retrieved from a Darknet website accessible via The Onion Router (TOR) network depicting a user of the website paying approximately $16,000 worth of the cryptocurrency Bitcoin in exchange for the killing of two individuals who reside in Hoosick Falls, New York."

The criminal complaint went on to say that Pence's alleged communication with the hitmen occurred between July 16 and August 9. Pence allegedly provided the website's administrator with "names, address and photographs of the intended victims," as well as how he wanted the alleged murders to happen.

"Specifically, the user advised that the killing should be made to look like an accident or botched robbery, and that, if possible, care should be taken to not harm any of the three children known to be in the care of the intended victims," the criminal complaint said.

During their investigation, the FBI discovered that the Bitcoin wallet that was used to upload the cryptocurrency onto the DarkWeb site allegedly belonged to Pence, as his date of birth and social security number were associated with the account, the criminal complaint said. The FBI also found that the IP address used to deposit the Bitcoin allegedly belonged to Pence.

While speaking with the intended victims, who were not identified in the criminal complaint, the FBI discovered that photographs reportedly uploaded by Pence matched their descriptions.

Additionally, the interviews with the intended victims revealed a motive for Pence, the complaint said. According to the complaint, Pence's family legally adopted five of the intended victim's children "and that there was an escalating dispute between the two families," including the intended victim's desire to regain custody of their children.

"Furthermore, Pence and the intended victims did not agree on how the children should be raised or the personal choices and lifestyle of the intended victims," the criminal complaint said.

The intended victims were never harmed, according to the attorney's office.

Pence was arrested in Utah on October 27 and is scheduled to be arraigned in Albany federal court "at a later date." The criminal complaint said that during an interview with the FBI following his arrest, Pence admitted that he was the user of the DarkWeb site in the obtained communications, that he accessed the website to hire hitmen and that he provided the user with photographs of the intended victims.

If convicted, Pence faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, "a fine of up to $250,000, and a term of supervised release of up to 3 years," the attorney's office said.

Pence's attorney declined to make any further comments.

A Utah man was recently charged in an alleged scheme to pay hitmen in Bitcoin to kill two people. Above, a visual representation of the digital Cryptocurrency, Bitcoin on October 23, 2017 in London. Dan Kitwood/Getty