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Woman Hires Hitman Online, Gets Busted

| 25 Mar 2011 16:27
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A woman in Pennsylvania used her PayPal account to hire a guy on hitmanforhire.com and might face 56 years in prison.

Back in 2006, twenty-eight year old Marissa Mark decided she wanted someone dead. So she did what any sensible person would do to find an assassin for hire, she went to the internet. Searching for "hitman" probably came up with a boatload of videogame reviews and news articles, but Mark finally stumbled upon a website called "hitmanforhire.com" and arranged for a man only identified as "person No. 1" to shoot a Californian woman in the head for $37,000.

She used pilfered credit card accounts to exchange $19k through PayPal, with the promise to hand over the balance when the job was done. Even though Mark provided the initials of the target (A.L.R) and the woman's work address, the target wasn't physically harmed before the authorities stopped the plot. After collecting all the evidence it could, the U.S. Attorney's office finally indicted Marissa Mark this week on eight counts including conspiracy and use of interstate commerce facilities in the commission of murder for hire, aggravated identity theft, attempted access device fraud, and aiding and abetting. If she's found guilty of all counts, Mark could face a maximum sentence of 56 years in prison.

At last year's Triangle Games Conference, Susan Arendt heard a talk from lawyer Greg Boyd about how important it is to think about money laundering when designing online economies in MMOs. If you can buy a sword with real money and can transfer it to someone else, coupled with the ability to "cash out," then it's theoretically possible for criminal organizations to launder funds through your game.

You might think that someone using a videogame that way is a pretty far-fetched worry, but Mark's case proves that if an act is possible, someone will eventually try to carry it out. Marissa Mark circumvented all the skullduggery and subterfuge that Boyd proposed by directly using all of the tools that the internet provides (ease of communication, convenient transactions) to carry out a grisly murder.

Online game-makers usually try to discourage transfer of real funds for ingame currency, but a secondary market still exists. How far are we from someone using isk in EVE Online or gold in WoW to do something similar?

Source: Morning Call

Thanks to The_root_of_all_evil for the tip.

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