Violence-for-hire: Trend emerging on dark web

Rush Hour

(NewsNation) — Those surfing the dark web are using a new tactic by hiring criminals to carry out their dirty deeds.

In January, an attacker fired eight shots into the living room of a home in rural Pennsylvania. Surveillance footage from the incident, shared with NewsNation, shows several shots fired into a home.  The accused shooter is 21-year-old Patrick McGovern-Allen. The family, afraid for their safety, only spoke with us through a newly installed Ring camera. 

Two weeks before the shooting, federal investigators believe McGovern-Allen went to another house and threw Molotov cocktails at the home.

In both attacks, McGovern-Allen was allegedly recruited on the dark web to carry out the threats. It’s practice known to law enforcement as violence-for-hire. Another person records the crime as proof the job is done.  

Sources tell NewsNation that the person that allegedly paid McGovern-Allen is still out there.  

A federal arrest warrant reveals McGovern-Allen bragged about the shooting and firebombing on the social app Discord. 

According to the warrant, Discord flagged the information and turned it over to the FBI, calling it “high harm cybercrime activity.”

In a chat session, McGovern-Allen tells other Discord users that he was the person who shot the house and that he was willing to commit firebombing by using Molotov cocktails. 

Dan Patterson, editorial director at Cybersixgill, says he’s been tracking these kinds of cybercrimes for years. 
“If you’re targeted, it’s pretty hard to hide,” Patterson said.  He showed NewsNation how simple it is to find someone who is ready and willing to attack on demand.  

Also, because the transactions are done on the dark web and then paid for with cryptocurrency, it’s hard for local police to trace.

Retired FBI agent Scott Augenbaum has been investigating cybercrimes for 30 years. 

“The FBI will catch these people, but the chances you will use these different types of routers, different communication tools… the chances of bringing these bad guys to justice is really difficult,” Augenbaum said.  

McGovern-Allen is now in a federal holding facility in Philadelphia as his case moves forward.

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