The very real RentAHitman.com website asks visitors a simple question: “Got a problem that needs resolving?” Although the majority of people would recognize the website for what it is, a joke, there are remarkably still some that take it seriously and submit a request for murder. Wendy Wein, a 52-year-old Michigan woman, is one of those people.
Wein recently found out that while the RentAHitman.com may be a joke, using it to try to get someone else to kill your ex-husband is not, and carries real-world consequences. Earlier this month, she pleaded guilty to solicitation of murder and using a computer to commit a crime. The former crime carries a maximum lifetime sentence, while the latter is capped at 20 years.
Under her plea agreement, Wein will serve a minimum of nine years in prison. She will be sentenced by Daniel White, Monroe County’s 38th Circuit Court Judge in Michigan, in January, according to the Monroe News.
At first, Wein’s story sounds like a comedy skit you might see on Saturday Night Live. Laughter is replaced with incredulity, the creeps, and a little bit of fear when you realize she actually meant to harm someone else, though.
She started by filling out a “service request form”—which asks users for basic information on themselves such as name, phone number, and email as well as information on who they want taken out—on RentAHitman.com in 2020 under a fake name. RentAHitman.com is a straightforward website with a simple design. It boasts of having 17,985 field operatives all over the U.S. to help customers (which is actually a reference to the rough number of law enforcement entities in the country) and claims it’s compliant with “Hitman Information Privacy & Protection Act of 1964” (yes, that’s fake).
RentAHitman.com also includes satisfied customer “testimonials” (which are obviously fake). If you scroll down enough, you can even see this phrase in the website’s footer: “Due to contractual restrictions, Rent-A-Hitman is no longer affiliated with Diners Club, Kanye West, the Illuminati, Rudolph Giuliani, Alec Baldwin or Kyle Rittenhouse.”
Despite all of this, there are some people who still think RentAHitman.com is a legitimate website offering a real service.
“I don’t get it,” Bob Innes, the owner of the joke site, told the Washington Post in a recent interview. “People are just stupid.”
In Wein’s case, she agreed to meet one of the website’s “field operatives,” who was actually an undercover police detective, to talk about the job she wanted done. The police had been contacted by Innes, who determined that Wein was a real threat to others.
As told by the Post, Wein informed the police detective that her ex-husband was a pedophile and described him in detail, providing his home address, the time he went to work, and the time he got home. She proceeded to give the police detective a “down payment” of $200 for the murder and agreed to give him $5,000 when her husband was taken care of. Wein was arrested shortly afterward the encounter.
“She was hellbent on... seeking revenge to take out her ex-husband,” Innes said, according to the Post, “And she never did her homework.”
Innes didn’t set out to create a honeypot for catching people who wanted to hire others to commit murder. Originally, he set up RentAHitman.com in 2005 to start a cybersecurity company with some friends after taking a network penetration testing and risk analysis course, Rolling Stone reported last year. That never panned out, and his efforts to sell to domain name never got any serious offers, so RentAHitman.com just stayed online.
Years passed, and Innes decided to check the site’s email to clean it up and see if there was in interest in buying the domain. Instead, he found roughly 300 emails from people around the world seeking various services, from using RentAHitman.com to extort money from others to asking how much he charged to carry out a hit in Austria.
Innes started to work with law enforcement when he received an email from a woman from the United Kingdom living in Canada who wanted three of her family members killed because she claimed they had left her without an inheritance. The woman provided a lot of details on the family members she wanted killed, which alarmed Innes. He confirmed all the information she provided and then got the information to the Canadian police, who found that the woman had outstanding warrants for serious charges and extradited her to the U.K.
He’s gotten other serious requests that have led to arrests over the years. A Kansas woman wanted to kill people who were reportedly disparaging her in her small town and told him to use “guns, bombs or anything or any way to remove them.” The Kansas woman was found guilty of solicitation to commit murder and was given three years of supervised probation, Innes said.
Another case involved a 20-year-old man from Virginia who wanted his ex-girlfriend, her mother, and her stepfather murdered. He also asked Innes to kidnap her baby and bring the baby to him so he could start a family with another woman. The Virginia man pleaded guilty to solicitation of murder and was sentenced to 20 years in prison, although he got 10 years of his sentence suspended. Overall, at least a dozen cases involving people using RentAHitman.com have led to arrest, according to Rolling Stone.
Innes doesn’t meet his “potential customers” in person or agree on any set “fee” for the website’s services. Instead, he passes on information he identifies as troubling to the police, who are the ones in charge of making contact with the individual. More than 10 years after RentAHitman.com first helped police catch a criminal, it’s still doing its job. That’s despite the fact that Innes doesn’t keep the website’s true nature a secret and has done a variety of news interviews about it.
“It’s a crazy world,” Innes told the Post. “The Internet is obviously a dangerous place. And this website is a magnet for low-hanging fruit that are out there trying to harm other people.”