How I became a dark web consultant to a TV show, and my somewhat complicated relationship with the owner of the most profitable online murder-for-hire service in history
I recently worked as a consultant to CBS for their season premiere of 48 Hours: “Click for a Killer” after I met a CBS producer at the trial of Stephen Allwine for the murder of his wife, Amy. The episode was originally going to be a straightforward telling of that crime, but as they learned about the extent of the Besa Mafia dark web murder-for-hire operation, as well as my own somewhat complicated and ongoing relationship with its owner, Yura, it turned into something quite different.
I wrote quite a bit about Yura, his websites and the Allwine case in The Darkest Web, but things evolved further over the months since the book’s release. If you look through any of my blog posts about dark web hitmen, you’ll find dozens of bizarre rants from him under several different names. Over time, he has insisted his sites are real, accused me and Chris Monteiro of being the true owners of Besa Mafia, and threatened to come after me, Chris and anyone we cared about.
Privately Yura wrote to me to let me know the true story behind his sites, but insisted he was doing the world a service by scamming would-be murderers out of their money. Our conversations moved from his website, to emails, to eventually real-time chats in Google Hangouts and our relationship was a roller coaster that at times bordered on something akin to a friendship. He seemed genuinely disturbed by Amy Allwine’s murder. After a while he started providing me with details about Australians who had been targeted on his site, which I passed on to police.
When I told him about the CBS show and asked him whether he would be willing to be interviewed for it, he spent the next few weeks wavering between being super-keen and being dead against it. First he thought it would be a great chance to advertise his site, which was still running very profitably. Then he got so excited about being involved, that he forwarded details of some of the US-based targets directly to the CBS producers. CBS was skeptical, but forwarded those details to the authorities, which promptly resulted in an arrest.
At this point, Yura had agreed to be interviewed for the show in London, and CBS flew me over there to meet with host Peter Van Sant and, hopefully, Yura. They hired a warehouse studio and arranged for an Academy Award-nominated make-up artist to be on hand to disguise his appearance. However, Yura had a massive hissy fit and refused to come, claiming CBS had reneged on the deal; the news reports had called his site fake and he only wanted to be interviewed if he could drum up business with claims he was genuine. I spent the next few days in London trying to cajole him to come in, but to no avail. We eventually had a huge fight and he deleted all the contact points I had for him.
After I returned home to Australia, he got in contact with me again, acting as if nothing had happened, even though our last correspondence had involved significant very sweary insults on both sides. He told me he was still getting orders on the site, but business was slow. But he might have felt bad about being a no-show and said that he would send CBS “several videos of myself wearing a black mask giving my position on Besa and Allwine story”.
Meanwhile, Chris Monteiro had gained access to the orders, which he passed on to CBS, who in turn tipped off the authorities. Those stories, including a couple of high-profile arrests, make up Part II of the 48 Hours episode.
A little while before the 48 Hours episode came out, Yura provided me with access to the back end of his most recent site, Camorra Hitmen, so I could see the orders come in. I passed on some target victim information to Queensland and Victorian police, though I’m not sure much has come of my tips. Despite him saying business was slow, Camorra had taken in about 5 Bitcoin since it took on the new name, a period of around 8 weeks. All up, Yura’s hitman sites have brought in at least six figures, and according to the man himself, over a million dollars.
Then as suddenly as he had provided backdoor access, he took it away, and once again the email addresses he was using bounced back. He is the most fickle hitman ever.
Just before he disappeared last time a couple of weeks ago, he told me he thought he might get out of the murder-for-hire business and open a restaurant. I asked him if he would invite me to the opening and he assured me he would consider it, with the caveat: “Just promise don’t drop any word to police about how I got the funds to invest in it ;)”
The Darkest Web is now available on Kindle in the Amazon US and Canadian stores. At this stage they don’t seem to be selling physical copies, but they are available with free worldwide shipping from Book Depository.