Fifteen-thousand dollars. That’s about how much the Department of Justice says Beverly Hills resident Scott Berkett, 24, paid to order a hit on a brief romantic partner after she repeatedly tried ending the relationship: approximately $14,000 to a shadowy, dark web group to arrange the hit and another $1,000 to the supposed hitman. But the dark web group turned out to be a “scam” and the hitman turned out to be an undercover agent, according to an affidavit filed in a case against Berkett, who now faces federal murder-for-hire charges. Berkett was arrested on May 21 and remains in custody.
Berkett first met “Victim 1” on a Facebook fan group for a popular online anime series, according to the affidavit. The two lived in different states, so they allegedly cultivated a relationship through messages and phone calls.
The affidavit says they met in person for the first time in October 2020, when the woman flew out to Los Angeles. She experienced Berkett as “sexually aggressive,” the affidavit says, and made her first effort at ending the relationship when she returned home.
An attorney representing Berkett did not immediately return a request for comment.
Over the next few months, the woman allegedly tried repeatedly to end things with Berkett, with Berkett “becoming possessive” and refusing to acknowledge the break-up. Eventually, according to the affidavit, a family member of the woman intervened and contacted Berkett’s father about the situation. Berkett allegedly responded: “She is blocked from all social media. Will consider this matter closed.”
But the matter was far from closed for Berkett, the court filings contend. Berkett allegedly made contact with a group on the so-called dark web, a fully anonymous form of the internet, that offered assassination services. However, according to the affidavit, “this Dark Web Group was a scam” and reached out to an “investigative media organization” with information about Berkett and his intentions. The media outlet then contacted the FBI.
The rise of the dark web has given way to numerous murder-for-hire services that promise anonymity and convenience. However, media reports on stories like Berkett’s have so far indicated that many such sites are fraudulent, scamming people looking to commit a crime behind the veil of total secrecy. As Michigan State University Professor Tom Holt writes in a recent paper on online contract killers, “the same anonymity and privacy makes transactions inherently riskier for all participants.”
In April, Berkett allegedly messaged the group that he would like the killing “to look like an accident, but robbery gone wrong may work better. So long as she is dead. I’d also like for her phone to be retrieved and destroyed irreparably in the process.” He then allegedly made a request for proof of her death, such as a photo of her body and a distinctive tattoo.
Soon, Berkett was contacted by an undercover agent representing himself as the hitman, according to the affidavit, who sent Berkett a photo of the woman in a Walmart. The affidavit provides an alleged exchange between Berkett and the undercover officer in which Berkett confirms the identity of the woman and reiterated the need for photos of her tattoo and dead body. Berkett then allegedly wired a subsequent $1,000 to the officer through the Western Union kiosk at the Beverly Hills Rite Aid on Bedford Drive. The next day, he was arrested.
If convicted, Berkett faces a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years. He is scheduled to appear at the Roybal Federal Building for a detention hearing on June 2.