A 25-year-old Beverly Hills man who paid a dark web group $13,000 in Bitcoin to murder a woman he briefly dated is to spend five years in federal prison for a scheme the victim said “will haunt me for the rest of my life.”
Scott Quinn Berkett refused to leave the woman alone after she broke up him, then joined an internet group that advertised itself as a murder-for-hire service but instead provided his messages and other information to “members of an investigative media organization” who contacted the FBI, prosecutors said in court filings.
“His words leave little doubt as to his desire and intent to see his ex-girlfriend murdered,” they wrote, adding in a sentencing memorandum that Berkett’s crime “was not a momentary lapse in judgment, but a premeditated plot to kill the Victim because she rejected his advances.”
An Eagle Scout who briefly attended Washington State University, Berkett was working as a part-time software technician when federal agents arrested him in May 2021 after he went to a grocery store to purchase alcohol, part of an alibi he’d planned with a man he thought was a hired hitman but was actually an undercover FBI agent.
He’s been in custody ever since, with U.S. District Judge Mark C. Scarsi in Los Angeles sentencing him Monday to five years in prison after he pleaded guilty in June use of interstate facilities to commit murder-for-hire. His victim said in a sealed letter quoted by prosecutors that she thinks about the plot against her “on an almost daily basis” and her anxiety is worsened “upon seeing someone who resembles the defendant or a passing glimpse of a California license plate.”
Berkett met his victim when they were both administrators of a Facebook page for the Japanese anime show RWBY. He paid for her room at the Avalon Hotel during her visit to the Los Angeles area, and she had sex with him “but felt pressured to do so” and said he was “sexually aggressive,” according to a 38-page charging complaint filed in the Central District of California.
She broke up with him after the trip, “but he refused to accept the break-up,” prosecutors wrote, and continued messaging her on various social media platforms. The contact continued until a member of the victim’s family called and texted Berkett’s father requesting his son stop contacting her. Investigators believe Berkett posed as his father to respond, “Consider this matter closed.”
About two weeks later, the FBI learned of Berkett’s murder-for-hire scheme. Members of the “Dark Web Group” provided agents the name and address of the victim as well as proof “that Bitcoin payments were made with an understanding that an unknown individual would murder” her. They included messages Berkett sent after he registered for the group and was asked, “hi, are u looking for a hitman?”
Berkett replied, “Saving up for a simple hit. Ill be putting the job in as soon as I have the BTC,” referring to Bitcoin. He submitted the payment the next day and wrote,
“I’d like it 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 also asked that “proof of her death sent to me” along with a photo of her corpse and a photo a distinct tattoo on one of her forearms.
“I’ll refrain from sending a picture of the tattoo to avoid doctored photos,” Berkett wrote, according the complaint. “If possible, letting me know if she was in Arizona or Idaho would also be appreciated so I can also verify via the obituaries.” He later wrote: “I look forward to receiving communications that will let me know when, approximately, to prepare my alibi.”
By that time, the recipients of Berkett’s messages had contacted the FBI. Court filings reveal few details about the “members of an investigative media organization,” with FBI Special Agent Caitlin Bowdler describing their information source as “a group on the Dark Web that advertised murder-for-hire services” in the May 2021 complaint.
“As law enforcement presently understands, this Dark Web Group was a scam,” Bowdler wrote. “To my knowledge, law enforcement has not had direct contact with this Dark Web Group.”
Armed with the group’s information, an undercover agent messaged Berkett through WhatsApp purporting to be the hired hitman. The agent ended up discussing the murder plot with him over the phone, as Berkett confirmed a bevy of details from the dark web group’s messages and agreed to send the man another $1,000 through Western Union.
Bowdler watched Berkett send the money from a Rite Aid, and he was arrested the next day. Investigators also searched his 2008 Mercedes.
A judge declined to release him on bail several times, with his lawyers Evan Jenness and Blair Berk including with their last request a supportive letter from his parents that described him as “very rule-oriented and respectful of law.”
He’s lived in their Beverly Hills home his entire life, “except for three semesters when he was a student at Washington State University,” where he proudly was part of a group that served as “an unofficial safety escort patrol for female students walking alone late at night.”
“The group never dated any of the students they escorted – they were only out to help protect them,” the letter said. “Scott was very proud to be a part of that group.”
U.S. Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Chooljian said in a written order that Berkett’s own admission “that he has multiple personalities, including a violent personality” demonstrate he can harm other people, and she said releasing him to his parents “would not mitigate the danger as Defendant allegedly committed the instant offenses from such location and accordingly successfully concealed his conduct from his parents.”
The judge also said Berkett “recently attempted to manufacture evidence of his innocence by agreeing to pay a third party $10,000 to fabricate Internet messages suggesting that Defendant was framed.” Chooljian referenced his family’s wealth, writing, “Defendant’s access to significant financial resources and his foreign travel experience bolster” her belief that Berkett would put his parents’ home at risk and flee the area to try to escape his charges. According to prosecutors, Berkett made only $650 a month as a software technician but still easily accessed the $14,000 in total he paid for the woman’s murder “demonstrating his access to financial resources.”
Berkett signed a plea agreement on April 27. Prosecutors said in earlier filings that his standard range under U.S. Sentencing Commission guidelines put him over the statutory maximum 10 years in prison, but they ended up recommending five years because his “mental health condition is a mitigating factor.”
They included with their 10-page memo the sealed letter from the victim as well as sealed letters from her mother, father and sister. Her mother wrote of feeling helpless because, “There is a man in this world that wants my child dead. A man that wants a picture of her corpse. If I word this too strongly, who’s to say it won’t anger him further. He isn’t going to be locked up forever. If he was bold enough to do this, what else is he capable of?”
Judge Scarsi allowed Berkett’s defense memorandum to be filed under seal after his lawyers said it “references confidential mental health information, and other information of a highly personal nature, throughout.” He then sentenced Berkett to prosecutors’ recommended 60 months on Monday afternoon.
Berkett was prosecuted by assistant U.S. attorneys Kathy Yo and Joseph David Axelrad, who left for private practice in May.
Read prosecutors’ full sentencing memorandum below:
(Image: U.S. Department of Justice via CBS News)
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