back to article Ex-Microsoft engineer gets seven years after trying to hire hitman for double murder

A former Microsoft software engineer has been sentenced to seven years in prison after paying $16,000 in Bitcoin to arrange the murder of the parents of his adopted children. On October 27, 2021 Christopher Pence was arrested by FBI agents at his home in Cedar Creek, Utah, and subsequently admitted that in July and August of …

  1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    use of interstate commerce facilities in the commission of a murder-for-hire

    So if he had gone to a Starbucks in New York, or used a VPN to send the money within New York, he wouldn't have done anything wrong ?

    1. aerogems Silver badge

      Re: use of interstate commerce facilities in the commission of a murder-for-hire

      If he, the hitman (or woman, it is the 21st century after all), their respective bank accounts, and/or the exchange site weren't all physically located in NY state, they could probably still stick him with that charge. It might be a fair bit weaker at trial, but I don't think the prosecution would care much since they have a pretty open and shut attempted murder charge. The interstate commerce thing would just be the bacon bits on the top of the salad.

    2. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: use of interstate commerce facilities in the commission of a murder-for-hire

      If everything was in one state, the interstate charge would not apply and it would just be a murder case. This is a federal charge that adds to, not replaces, any other charges at the state level. In addition, if he was in New York at the time but the exchange or bank involved wasn't, the interstate charge still applies.

  2. aerogems Silver badge
    WTF?

    Couple of things

    1) The fact that he shares a last name with the former VP is just priceless

    2) This is almost as funny as if he used that Rent-a-Hitman site which continues to get solicitations despite being pretty obvious it's a joke site

    3) The statement for the sister's gofundme is... interesting

    4) Sounds like the children are the real losers in this as their biological parents sound like dicks and their adoptive parents (well, father at least) is an idiot almost worthy of a world's dumbest criminals TV show

    5) Credit for the guy's comment as he's being perp walked out of his house, the judge should knock one or two hours off his sentence for the humor value

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Couple of things

      It sounds as if he has a weak grap of reality.

      1. ecofeco Silver badge

        Re: Couple of things

        The cult of MS will do that to you.

      2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: Couple of things

        It sounds as if he has a weak grasp of reality morality.

        There - fixed it for you

  3. Zibob Bronze badge

    Child Protective Services

    How would one get in contact with them regarding this. It wasn't stated if they still have custody over the adopted children but I'm pretty sure being convicted of soliciting murder for hire excludes you from being an adoption parent.

    1. aerogems Silver badge

      Re: Child Protective Services

      TFA said that they had legally adopted 5 of 7 (yikes!) kids from the biological parents, and that there was some kind of dispute involving the biological parents filing some kind of complaint with the Utah CPS, which is what escalated things to the point in the story. Of course there's a whole lot to the story we don't really know, and probably never will know because the kids are minors, and there being three sides to every story.

    2. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Child Protective Services

      It sounds like they've been involved from the start given that's what caused the guy to want to organize some murders. Even if they hadn't been, that's the kind of thing the police would do after arresting someone with children, although if there is another person taking care of them, they might have delayed calling them. I'm pretty confident that someone is already trying to do something, though I don't know what they're doing or if it's the right thing.

  4. rcxb Silver badge

    Headlines

    Couldn't we get a better headline on this one? Something like:

    "Working at Microsoft drives man to hire hitman"

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Headlines

      6 downvotes?

      I see the MS fanbois have arrived.

      1. aerogems Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Headlines

        Or, maybe it's just that the person working at Microsoft was coincidental and not really relevant to the story except for a flimsy excuse for El Reg to cover it.* Not everything is about your Windows vs Linux holy war. Seek out a therapist in your area. They can help you identify whatever it is that you feel is missing in your life that you try to replace with religious nonsense like Windows vs Linux.

        * Not saying it's a bad thing, just that it's a flimsy excuse

        1. ecofeco Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: Headlines

          Sir, this is Arby's.

  5. may_i
    Facepalm

    What a moron!

    This guy is stupid. Deep down incurably stupid.

    Aside from the moronic attitude which thinks that having people killed is a good solution, putting his bitcoin in an exchange wallet is just dumb to start with. Using that identifiable bitcoin to pay for a non-existent hit man is cosmically stupid. Thinking that you can hire a real hit man using the Internet or the Darknet makes him Darwin award material.

    That anyone would donate to his sister's gofundme just goes to prove how many equally stupid people there are out there.

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: What a moron!

      Lots of stupid in this world.

      It's another reason we can't have nice things.

      1. aerogems Silver badge
        Windows

        Re: What a moron!

        But we do get all those wonderful "World's dumbest criminals" TV shows to watch and laugh at.* So, it's not all bad, just like 98-99% bad.

        * Will never forget a story about some guy, on foot, who gives a bank drive-thru employee a note saying he has a knife and to give him money. The bank employee is sitting behind a couple inches of bullet proof glass, so tells the guy to wait while they go get the money. They call the cops, and the "robber" is still there when they show up to arrest him.

  6. JamesTGrant

    Crappy plan

    Isn’t this what a bag of money left underneath an overpass is for? It’s old tech but it’s a LOT less traceable.

    Also, if you’re want to have someone ‘done in’ and you’re not the mafia or the government - it’s probably less risky to diy. Certainly cheaper - and no one will be blackmailing you or ‘singing like a canary’ to get a plea bargain if they get nabbed.

    I think I’ve thought about this too much. Am I on a list now?

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Crappy plan

      > I think I’ve thought about this too much. Am I on a list now?

      Yeah you are, along with Agatha Christie, anyone who has borrowed an Agatha Christie book from a library, and anyone who watches several hours of crime drama a week on TV... so it's probably quicker to write down who *isn't* on such a list.

      1. parlei

        Re: Crappy plan

        I gather some mystery writers have a horror of the FBI (etc) pulling their internet (search) history and jumping to conclusions.

        1. KittenHuffer Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: Crappy plan

          If they pull my internet search history will I suddenly get porn industry head hunters contacting me offering me work?!? Only for the kinkier fetish productions of course!!!

          ---------> I'm into sadism, beastiality and necrophilia. My ex left me cos I was flogging a dead horse!

        2. Sherrie Ludwig

          Re: Crappy plan

          I gather some mystery writers have a horror of the FBI (etc) pulling their internet (search) history and jumping to conclusions.

          That isn't new, the Dorothy L. Sayers novel Strong Poison is actually about a woman mystery novelist who is on trial for the murder of her ex-lover, largely based on the premise that she knew all about the poison used.

          1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

            Re: Crappy plan

            Nancy Brophy murdered her husband after writing a book about murdering one's husband.

            A plan so cunning...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Crappy plan

      Isn’t this what a bag of money left underneath an overpass is for? It’s old tech but it’s a LOT less traceable.

      Exactly. Bitcoin seems to have a reputation among the uninitiated of being a mysterious, untraceable system, perfect for anonymous activity. In reality, if you stop and think about it, it's almost the complete opposite- and far worse than cash- in that respect.

      Here's your brief reminder that :-

      * Bitcoin ownership and transactions are pseudonymous, not anonymous, and that

      * All transactions are permanently recorded on the blockchain along with the addresses (i.e. pseudonyms) they're associated with.

      The only thing stopping everyone and anyone having access to a complete, perfect and publicly-accessible record of every transaction you've carried out is the lack of a connection between that address/pseudonym and your real identity. And it only takes a single mistake or something you overlooked that would connect you with any *one* of the numerous transactions you carried out using that address, and it's all over. (*)

      Bitcoin could practically have been designed to lure in the gullible. The one person I'd expect to have known better would have been an engineer for Microsoft.

      (*) Yes, you can use a different address, if you're disciplined enough and avoid making mistakes that would connect them. And yes, cryptocurrency tumblers exist. But they only exist in the first place because of the above flaw and- aside from the legality- good luck in ensuring that it's been operated in a sufficiently rigorous manner and that those who operate it don't have records they'll hand over to authorities in exchange for a plea bargain.

      1. lglethal Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: Crappy plan

        Bitcoin could practically have been designed to lure in the gullible.

        Let me fix that statement for you - Bitcoin WAS designed to lure in the gullible.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fascinated by the basis of the GoFundMe

    > "has been accused of a terrible crime that did not involve any harm or misconduct to the children or his wife and did not involve any infidelity."

    So aside from those conditions, absolutely any other terrible crime is fine by the sister.

    But if the hitperson had settled for, say, $15,000 *and* a knee-trembler behind the bikesheds, only that last bit would have been totally beyond the pale?

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Fascinated by the basis of the GoFundMe

      My guess would be she realized just how screwed she is (financially and reputation at least) and had a "psychotic break".

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Fascinated by the basis of the GoFundMe

        > how screwed she is

        How screwed he is

        (Unless we learn the sister was involved as well - don't touch that dial)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Fascinated by the basis of the GoFundMe

      It's entirely possible we are missing some context here. Could be that one of the neighbors got hauled away for kiddie diddling the week prior, so everybody in the area was going to assume this guy got hauled off for the same reason as soon as they heard he was arrested.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Fascinated by the basis of the GoFundMe

        > Could be that one of the neighbors got hauled away for kiddie diddling the week prior, so everybody in the area was going to assume this guy got hauled off for the same reason

        That is what came to mind? Bleak! And not flattering about the neighbours.

        1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: Fascinated by the basis of the GoFundMe

          I think you overlooked the fact it's Utah.

    3. aerogems Silver badge

      Re: Fascinated by the basis of the GoFundMe

      I decided against saying this in my earlier post above because it might sound religiously intolerant*, but... It's Utah, home of the Mormons. The idea that he might have been a child abuser/molester, and/or adulterer is a lot more culturally significant to them compared to the rest of us.

      * I'm actually very egalitarian in my dislike of organized religion. The philosophy bits on how to be a good person are generally fine, it's when they get into the supernatural bullshit that things go pear-shaped

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ClippyAI : search for a hitman/person on the Darkweb :]

    Chris Pence: ClippyAI, search for a hitman/person on the Darkweb :]

    ClippyAI: Certainly Chris, before that could I interest you in upgrading to the MS premium life-time-into-perpetuity software license that will expire on the next iteration of Windows.

  9. LybsterRoy Silver badge

    BUT but but .... I thought cryptocurrency was meant to be untraceable.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Indeed, I'm shocked- *shocked*- that a system whose entire point was that it was built around a publicly-accessible blockchain that recorded and made visible every single transaction and- more importantly- the pseudonymous addresses involved (pseudonyms which could be broken if any one of those countless transactions could be associated with someone's real-world identity) turned out not to be untraceable.

      But mutual sarcasm towards Bitcoin's "untraceable" reputation aside, paying closer attention to this particular story shows that actually- in this case- it wasn't even that which caused his downfall, it was the fact he'd carried out the transfer via an exchange service that he'd given all his personally-identifying details to!

      FFS. (Shakes head).

  10. Arthur the cat Silver badge

    "He specifically requested that any children not be harmed."

    Well, that makes it so much better!

    [For the hard of thinking: bleak sarcasm.]

  11. Mnot Paranoid
    Windows

    Obligatory Peep Show Quote

    "Yeah, murdering your enemies is quite a simple solution. Which I guess is why in ethics and law it's so frowned upon."

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