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Feds Bust Teen for Allegedly Offering Dark Web Contract Killing Services

There's no evidence that dark web 'hitman' services have ever resulted in anyone being killed, but this case shows some are interested in the business.

One of the most prevailing myths of the dark web is the existence of hitmen; technologically sophisticated murderers who offer their services in exchange for cash. The sites, however, are likely scams; some more elaborate than others.

But one recent arrest shows that some people may actually be prepared to run this sort of business.

On Monday, Acting Prosecutor Gurbir S. Grewal from the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office announced the arrest of Joshua Craig Rowling, 18, who is charged with, among other crimes, conspiracy to commit murder for hire.


"During the course of a joint investigation conducted by the BCPO Cyber Crimes Unit and HSI, law enforcement learned that ROWLING used the dark web to offer his services as a hitman," the announcement reads.

Read more: 7 Ways the Cops Will Bust You on the Dark Web

For the murder, Rowling, who is from New York, was to receive $2,500, and a Glock 17 pistol fitted with a silencer, according to a copy of the complaint provided to Motherboard by the prosecutor's office. Rowling's bail amount was set to $1 million.

But, his customer was instead an undercover agent, according to a press release from US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

A section of the complaint against Rowling.

In May, Motherboard reported on one particular dark web hitman scam site, notable for the sheer effort its administrator put into maintaining the facade of a real business, including filming threatening videos against critics. Other dark web 'hitman' sites have offered crowd-funded bounties to whoever can assassinate one of a selection of high profile politicians and celebrities. But, there is no evidence that any of these sites actually ended up with anyone being killed.

As for Rowling, he is detained until his initial court appearance on November 2.

"We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to pursue individuals who attempt to disregard the rule of law," said Special Agent in Charge Terence S. Opiola, HSI, Newark, in a statement.

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