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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Middle District of Florida

Friday, January 5, 2018

Pinellas County Inmate Sentenced To 65 Years’ Imprisonment For Plot To Murder Witnesses

Tampa, Florida – U.S. District Judge James S. Moody has sentenced Priscilla Ellis (51, Killeen, Texas) to 65 years in federal prison for murder-for-hire, witness retaliation, and securities counterfeiting. A federal jury found her guilty of these offenses on March 9, 2017. The judge ordered the 65-year sentence to run consecutive to a 40-year sentence previously imposed following a prior federal conviction.


According to court documents, following a three-week trial in October 2016, Ellis and her two co-defendants were convicted of conspiracies to commit international money laundering and mail and wire fraud and were remanded to federal custody. After arriving at the Pinellas County Jail, Ellis immediately began soliciting other inmates to assist her in finding a hitman to murder one of the witnesses who had testified during her trial, as well as the mother of a second trial witness. Meanwhile, she directed coconspirators in Nigeria and Texas to create electronic images of counterfeit cashier’s checks with face values totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars that were to be cashed and used to pay for the murders.


Over the course of the next week, Ellis “hired” an undercover FBI agent posing as a hitman and provided explicit instructions on how she wanted her targets killed. On October 28, 2016, a family member acting at Ellis’s direction provided a down payment on the murder contracts to the undercover agent posing as the hitman in Texas, with the remainder to be paid only after the intended victims were killed.    


This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the City of Austin (Texas) Police Department. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Eric K. Gerard and Patrick D. Scruggs, both of whom tried the prior case as well.

Financial Fraud
Violent Crime
Updated January 5, 2018