Murder mystery fans gather round: A man in Tennessee allegedly paid a hitman with bitcoin to murder his wife.
An FBI special agent, Clay M. Anderson, detailed the probable murder plot in an affidavit, and it's worthy of a modern murder mystery novel.
The husband in question, Nelson Replogle, apparently went to a murder-for-hire website to find someone to kill his wife, Ann Replogle, while she drove their pet to the vet. Per agent Anderson's report, Replogle allegedly sent bitcoin to the intended murderer using Coinbase, all in the name of anonymity.
In the end, Ann Replogle was not killed, and the hitman has yet to be identified.
How the murder plot was uncovered
In his court filing, agent Anderson explained that he was tipped off about Ann's potential murder by the BBC in April, after which he reached out to the Replogles, both of whom could not think of anyone who would want to harm Ann.
After reaching back out to the BBC for more information, agent Anderson received the Bitcoin wallet's address from where the intended murderer received their payment for the upcoming hit. After the FBI's headquarters analyzed the Bitcoin's blockchain the team was able to figure out that they were Coinbase wallets.
Coinbase adhered to the FBI's subpoena and provided information about the wallets, which showed all transactions, as well as Replogle's name and photos associated with them. From there, the FBI also had the details of the internet provider that was used to send the transactions on Coinbase, which was AT&T. The internet provider also complied with the FBI's subpoena, and confirmed the connection had come from Replogle's home address.
On top of that, Coinbase's subpoena also showed the First Horizon Bank account details that Replogle used to buy Bitcoin. The bank also complied with the FBI, and their information fitted in perfectly with what agent Anderson and the FBI team has uncovered about Replogle's activities.
Ultimately, as the court filing says "Based upon the forgoing, there is probable cause to believe that Nelson Paul Replogle violated Title 18, United States Code, Section 1958, murder for hire."
Cryptocurrencies and fraudulent activities
Even though personal information of those sending and receiving Bitcoin can remain more anonymous than, say, a bank account transaction, these cryptocurrency transactions can be logged in a blockchain, or a decentralized public ledger that ultimately records every Bitcoin transaction.
Bitcoin address owners' identities are generally anonymous on the blockchain. However, as was clearly displayed in this case, investigations on the blockchain can be carried out to uncover the user's identity.
Coinbase's platform has hugely grown since it was created in 2012, recording a $100 billion valuation in mid-April.
So as these cryptocurrencies and their associated platforms keep growing in popularity, so, perhaps, should the protocols around their uses improve. In late April, for example, a Bitcoin mixing magnate was arrested for laundering $336 million.
If its not money laundering, it might be murder, and who's to say what's next.