What is the dark web?
Details about how an alleged fake assassination site on the dark web carried out an elaborate scam on a Riverside man accused of trying to hire an assassin to kill his San Luis Obispo stepmother emerged in trial Tuesday.
And the credibility of a convicted sex offender serving as the key prosecution witness also was questioned on the second day of testimony in the bizarre case.
Chris Monteiro, a London resident with a criminal record in England, who claims to be a cybersecurity expert, took the stand for the second day in the trial against Beau Brigham.
Monteiro testified about how Brigham allegedly was being duped into paying $10,000 in a bitcoin transaction for the murder of his stepmother, an internet scam from the beginning.
Brigham has pleaded not guilty to solicitation of murder.
Monteiro said he hacked into the dark website and observed its advertised baseline price for providing a killing, $5,000, but for an additional $4,000 the assassins could make it look like an accident.
The site, run by a group calling itself Besa Mafia, claimed to have hitmen all over the world and, for various prices, users could order a sniper, a professional or ordinary killer.
Monteiro said the user who went by the screen name “teddy” was pressured into sending money quickly in exchange for the hit.
“You don’t have any money, you come here and ask us to wait for months for you, and now you say you don’t trust us,” the Besa Mafia administrator allegedly wrote. “If you add bitcoin, we kill people. If you f--- with us with stupid questions, we f--- you. F--- off. Let me know.”
Monteiro said the user allegedly responded by writing, “I have money just need a little more time... I want to trust you guys, no need for that message just a little more time, thank you.”
The amount that was cited in the posts was the bitcoin equivalent of $10,000.
Other data Monteiro said he retrieved showed a picture of the SLO woman targeted and an order form with details of her address and description of her car, noting “this person is evil” and “do not do job unless it can be done as an extreme clear accident.”
Deputy District Attorney Michael Frye alleged in his opening statements that Brigham, who told police he was sick, blamed his stepmother for leaving him for dead upon police questioning and that he told police he may have logged onto a dark website in a “moment of rage.” Frye also argued Brigham could receive one-third of his father’s inheritance if his stepmother were dead.
But defense attorney Ilan Funke-Bilu hammered away at Monteiro’s credibility throughout the day, eliciting an admission from the man that he was convicted of making indecent photos, or pseudo photographs, of children.
Monteiro admitted to the crime in 2017, he said, requiring him to register as a sex offender in England for having 58 illicit photos of children on his computer.
Monteiro also admitted to committing illegal computer-related acts to access dark web information, saying he “compromised and shut down websites.”
Monteiro said he had to get permission from the British government to leave the country. The prosecution has granted Monteiro’s immunity in the case.
Funke-Bilu’s questioning focused on Monteiro’s ability to verify the information he presented related to Brigham.
“No one from the DA’s has forensically examined your computer?” Funke-Bilu asked.
“Correct,” Monteiro responded.
In a pre-trial hearing, Funke-Bilu suggested in his questioning that Monteiro can’t confirm who actually sent or received the messages, saying the information is “just what he tells us,” Funke-Bilu argued.
Funke-Bilu delayed his opening statements until later in the planned three-week trial.