A man from East Palo Alto has recently been accused of having hired another man to kill a woman he strongly disliked, referring to the target in derogatory terms on several occasions. What he could not have known is that the man he hired was actually an informant with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. Using coded language (“fixing the car”), the two planned out the murder-for-hire. The ATF informant set up a meeting with an undercover ATF agent, the man was arrested and charged.
Murder-for-hire is a serious federal offense and is addressed in 18 U.S. Code 1958. This particular law was put into effect as part of the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984 and makes it illegal to hire another person, for money or exchange of goods or services, to murder another person. The law covers both the ‘hit man’ and the person hiring them. In other words, either one of them, or both, could end up facing serious consequences.
In fact, a conviction for the violation of 18 U.S.C. 1958 comes with varying penalties. For example, any violation of this law brings with it a 10-year sentence in a federal detention facility and a fine. However, if anyone is harmed during the attempt to carry out the murder, the prison sentence rises to 20 years and a $250,000 maximum fine. Still further, if death of the intended target results, then both ‘hit man’ and employer will face life imprisonment or in certain circumstances, the death penalty (USAM 9-10.000). In the case above, the murder was never even attempted as 2 of the 3 individuals involved were already working for the federal government.
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