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Court documents filed by Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent Christopher Nasca revealed yet another failed “murder-for-hire” scheme orchestrated through the darknet. A 26-year-old from Matthews, North Carolina, had allegedly reached out to two vendors on a darknet marketplace. He wanted a hitman to kill his “enemy” in Charlotte with a radioactive poison as a backup.
The defendant, now sitting in the Mecklenburg County Jail, unknowingly hired an undercover Homeland Security Investigations agent in the first exchange and an undercover Federal Bureau of Investigations agent in the second exchange. In April 2018, the defendant, former N.C. State student Bryant Budi, searched for a hitman a darknet market known only as “Website #1.”
The Criminal Complaint described the hidden service as a market with “numerous subsections advertising the sale of various illegal products, including drugs, counterfeit goods, and weapons.” In a footnote, the HSI agent wrote that “disclosure of the name of the site would potentially alert users to the fact that law enforcement action is being taken against the site.” Based on the information disclosed in the court documents, though, one could likely identify not only the market, but also an undercover agent posing as a vendor on the market.
While simultaneously searching for a vendor with access to a hitman, Budi searched for an undisclosed substance “primarily created in nuclear reactors.” The radioactive substance, as described by Special Agent Nasca, was likely one of just three radioactive substances found in HLW and almost exclusively found, moved, and used in a liquid form—just the way Budi asked the vendor to prepare and ship the chemical. The identity of the chemical was likely redacted to prevent the public from Identifying the undercover federal agent advertising a chemical that very few—if any at all—sell on darknet marketplaces.
Budi first spoke with the undercover HSI agent. He asked the agent, “actually do you know
someone who is a hitman? and able to do a quick job in US?” The agent told Budi that he had no business in the murder industry and that he only sold weapons. He also gave Budi the email address of an “associate” that could help with Budi’s problem. Unbeknownst to Budi, the undercover HSI agent had controlled both accounts and posed as both entities. The two exchanged messages until the undercover agent had “completed the job.” Budi told the agent that the target lived at an apartment in Charlotte, North Carolina, and had no fighting skills. Budi asked the agent—who had flown from New York to Charlotte for the job—to take a picture outside of the victim’s apartment after he had completed the job. The agent, on May 31, texted Budi at the Google Voice number Budi had created for temporary contact. Federal agents traced the IP address to the location Budi had been staying during the proposed disappearance of his enemy.
The target’s identity was redacted. We know that he was the lessor of a property Budi had rented in Charlotte; that he weighed roughly 250 pounds; that he was roughly six feet tall; and that he was “~30” years old.
While hiding out in California and orchestrating a hit, Budi reached out to the second vendor in an attempt to purchase the equivalent of a backup plan in the event that the hitman (undercover HSI agent) failed to kill the target. Budi provided the vendor with the same email address he had used while in contact with the HSI agent. The second vendor—an undercover FBI agent—was able to provide Budi with a radioactive substance that took between two and three weeks to kill a human. The undercover agent offered custom preparations of the substance and in doing so, verified a customer’s plans for the lethal product. Budi sent the agent, in one email, “what’s the lethal dosage for a 250 pound man? I want to see if I can put on multiple [sic] food. Can you put the money in the escrow until he dies? Can you make 4ml of the dosage for $800?”
The agent agreed to make 4ml of the substance for $800. Budi gave the agent the address of a man in Charlotte who could receive the package. The police questioned the recipient who confirmed that Budi had been spending time in California and that he had met Budi in college. The man also gave the agents text messages that revealed the date of Budi’s return.
Once Budi returned and picked up the package of inert radioactive material, federal authorities arrested him and charged him with one count of “use of interstate commerce facilities in the commission of murder-for-hire.” He currently sits in the Mecklenburg County Jail on a federal hold.