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When hiring a hitman, you never want “Dirty Deeds Done [on the]CHEAP”.

Something Phil Rudd, drummer for AC/DC found out last week. Rudd was arrested in New Zealand on October 30, 2014, for allegedly attempting to hire a hitman to kill two men.  Little information was available, such as the identities of the proposed victims, why Rudd wanted them “deep sixed,” who he approached to hire the hitman, and, most importantly, how the alleged plot was foiled.

Then, just one day later, the Crown Solicitor, (New Zealand’s version of our Prosecutor) dismissed the charges.  In an interview with CNN, the Crown Solicitor stated his opinion was never sought before charges were filed.  He also stated that “the charge of attempt to procure murder should never have been laid,” as there was not enough evidence to support such charges.  However, he did leave stand a charge of threatening to kill and drug possession charges.

It is thankfully rare that we hear of celebrities trying to hire someone to take out a rival, but in the real world it’s surprisingly not that uncommon. It is estimated that there are approximately 6,000 attempted and/or completed murder for hires each year in the United States according to an ABC News report.  Even though I’m a criminal defense attorney who has seen a few of these cases, I was shocked at that figure.

Now, as a criminal defense attorney who has represented gang members, I heard that it’s pretty easy to find a hitman. For a price, of course.   But without knowing a local gang member,  I wondered how you would go about finding a “hitman.”  If you’re an inmate, I guess you could put out the word with other inmates that you are looking for what’s called a “favor.” But inmates are known to turn on other inmates if they think they can use that information to shorten their own sentences.  So an inmate favor is probably not the best option if you don’t want to get caught.  Inmates aside, where does the average person find someone to carry out a hit?

I was surprised to learn that there are actually several websites devoted to finding you a hitman for that “special someone.”  Whether it’s a love gone wrong, a business partner who’s in the way, or just someone who is pissing you off at the moment, these sites seem to suggest they can find you someone to do the dirty deed. advertises that for $50,000 they will have one of their trained assassins complete the job.  All they need is the target’s name and address, and of course payment.  They actually have a portfolio of people they claim their assassins have “offed.”

Money talks

Money talks or “HAC” not only accepts credit cards, but for every hit ordered you get a free “HAC” T-shirt.  I would suggest you don’t post a picture of you wearing it on Facebook. They also kindly send you a packet of instructions telling you how to establish your alibi.

Now, if you’ve ever wanted to be a hitman, allegedly has seven open listings for hitmen on its website.  I wanted to find out what job skills were required, but to find out any information you had to leave your email address, and I wasn’t about to do that.  I don’t need the ATF showing up on my doorstep.

Speaking of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, they have a little known department comprised of special agents that pose as hitmen.  While other Federal, State, and local government bodies have agents who pose as hitmen, the ATF is the preeminent law enforcement agency when it comes to undercover hitmen.  While the agency will not comment on the number of agents it has devoted to stopping murder for hire plots, it does say it has agents working in every state, at every filed office.  The Bureau says they investigate murder for hire plots all across the county, from all walks of life, some you expect, and some you would never guess would stoop to murder. From ZZ Top beard-sporting, do-rag wearing, tattooed bikers, to little old school teachers, all kinds of people have been caught by the bureau trying to hire someone to help them get rid of a hitter.  But how does the bureau find out about these plots?

According to “Lance” (not his real name), an undercover ATF agent who spoke to ABC News, the typical scenario goes something like this:  Someone will ask a friend who they think might know someone, that person then usually asks someone else and so on until they meet an actual hitman, or more often a snitch who uses the information to help him/herself out of a bind.  Once the bureau gets the information, they make contact with the person who is trying to buy the hitman’s services.  They setup meets, and record everything. Once money is exchanged, the person is arrested.  Sometimes, according to Lance, the person wants proof of completion before they will pay.  In those cases, the bureau has to enlist the targeted person for help.  The bureau does a production worthy of a Hollywood movie, with makeup, lighting, and location shoots, all to get a photo that will convince the buyer that the hit has been carried out.

Lance also told ABC, that it’s hard to go to a person’s home or work, and inform them that someone they know and probably trusted, is trying to have them killed.  People just can’t believe it.

While there is no information that it was a police undercover operation that foiled Phil Rudd’s alleged plot, it is probably fair to say that if Rudd did try to hire someone to “take out” these two guys, after his arrest, he might have been thinking, “Oops, I guess I hired the wrong hitman.”

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About The Author

Los Angeles-based, celebrity criminal defense attorney, Lonnie McDowell, Esq of McDowell & Associates, Attorneys recognized with the Top 100 Trial Attorneys Award; shares his insight into the legal system in this series of commentaries.

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