The defendant in an alarming case that serves as a chilling reminder of the dangers that can arise in the digital realm has been sentenced to 6½ years in prison.
John Michael Musbach, a 34-year-old resident of Haddonfield in Camden County, has been sentenced to 78 months in prison for orchestrating a murder-for-hire plot involving a 14-year-old child.
U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger made the announcement today, shedding light on the disturbing case that unfolded in the realm of the internet.
Previously, Musbach pleaded guilty to knowingly and intentionally using the internet to arrange a murder-for-hire, as charged in the indictment.
U.S. District Judge Joseph H. Rodriguez imposed the sentence today in Camden federal court.
In the summer of 2015, Musbach engaged in the exchange of sexually explicit photographs and videos with the victim, a 13-year-old residing in New York, according to court documents and statements presented during the case.
The victim’s parents discovered the inappropriate contact and promptly notified local law enforcement.
After identifying Musbach, who was then living in Atlantic County, New Jersey, New York law enforcement authorities reached out to the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office (ACPO) for assistance.
In March 2016, officers from the ACPO arrested Musbach on child pornography charges and executed a search warrant at his residence in Galloway, New Jersey.
Musbach, in an attempt to prevent the victim from testifying against him in the pending criminal case, decided to have the victim murdered.
Between May 7, 2016, and May 20, 2016, Musbach communicated multiple times with the administrator of a murder-for-hire website operating on the darknet. This website purportedly offered contract killings or acts of violence in exchange for payment in cryptocurrency.
Musbach arranged for the murder-for-hire and inquired if a 14-year-old target was acceptable. Learning that the age was not a problem, Musbach paid approximately 40 bitcoins (equivalent to around $20,000 at the time) for the hit.
He continued to contact the website’s administrator, seeking updates on the progress of the planned murder. When asked for an additional $5,000 to secure the hit, Musbach eventually decided to cancel the arrangement and requested a refund of his $20,000.
The website’s administrator, however, revealed the scam and threatened to expose Musbach to law enforcement.
Alongside the prison term, Judge Rodriguez sentenced Musbach to three years of supervised release and imposed a $30,000 fine.
Sellinger acknowledged the Department of Homeland Security’s special agents from Homeland Security Investigations, led by Special Agent in Charge Ricky J. Patel in Newark and Special Agent in Charge Jamie Holt in St. Paul, Minnesota, for their investigative efforts leading to today’s sentencing. Sellinger also expressed gratitude to the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office for their assistance throughout the case.
The prosecution was conducted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Diana Vondra Carrig in Camden.