It’s hardly news that the dark web is full of shady stuff—including a disturbing amount of websites that claim to offer murder as a cheap service. Authorities arrested five men this week who they say operated one of the web’s most notorious hitman sites. Besa Mafia claimed that, for a little crypto, a customer could hire a thug to take someone out.
In a Wednesday press release, officials with Romania’s Directorate for the Investigation of Organized Crime and Terrorism (DIICOT) announced the arrest of five men alleged to be the administrators of the site formerly known as Besa Mafia. Alternately called “Camorra Hitman” and “#1 Hitman Marketplace,” Besa has long offered to connect paying dark web patrons to capable contract killers.
In its release, DIICOT said that its had nabbed the men at the behest of the U.S. government. “Judicial authorities in the United States of America are targeting the work of an organized criminal group that managed websites that posted offers for contracted assassination,” the DIICOT said. The identities of the arrestees have not been publicly released at this time.
Experts think that pretty much all hit man sites are scams, designed to bilk money out of bloodthirsty clients who think they can order up an assassin with Bitcoin like a normal person might DoorDash a burrito. “Besa” is no exception. Dark web researchers have long called the site a fraud, alleging that it is purely a vehicle to pilfer crypto from dumb but murderous Tor users.
However, if it’s a fraud, it’s certainly a fairly profitable one. The site has allegedly generated gobs of money, luring in thousands of clients with its offers to provide a variety of gruesome services—not just executions, but also beatings and torture.
“If you want to kill someone, or to beat the shit out of him, we are the right guys,” the site once read. “We have professional hitmen available through the entire USA, Canada and Europe and you can hire a contract killer easily.”
The price for these grisly but fake services has run between $5,000-20,000, in Bitcoin, Motherboard reports. Disturbingly, tons of people have fallen for the scam and actually forked over money in the hopes of arranging a murder.
Some people who reached out to Besa to arrange a killing have ultimately ended up being charged with murder. Indeed, a data leak of the site in 2016 allowed a researcher to view the site’s “Kill list”—ostensibly the people that users wished ill upon. Motherboard reports that at least a couple people on that list ultimately ended up becoming actual murder victims. The people that killed them weren’t hit men, however, but the people who initially contacted “Besa Mafia” about its “services.”