Texas Woman Charged in Murder-for-Hire Plot to Kill Trial Witnesses
Tampa, FL – United States Attorney A. Lee Bentley, III announces that Priscilla Ellis (51, Killeen, TX) has been charged by criminal complaint with retaliating against a witness, victim, or an informant. If convicted, she faces a maximum penalty of 40 years in federal prison.
According to the complaint, Ellis was convicted on October 21, 2016, of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and conspiracy to commit international money laundering following a three-week trial. The next day, she began soliciting a fellow inmate to help her find a hit man to murder two people in retaliation for testimony given at trial. One was a key witness for the government, and the other was the mother of another witness who had pleaded guilty and was cooperating against Ellis. During recorded conversations with the inmate and undercover agents posing as co-conspirators, Ellis told the agent posing as the hit man that the first witness’s child should be killed along with the witness, if necessary. Ellis also described the manner in which she wanted the cooperating witness’s mother to be killed. Ellis agreed to have her daughter in Texas take money obtained from another fraudulent scheme and give it to the hit man as partial payment for the two murders, which the daughter in fact did at Ellis’s direction.
A criminal complaint is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed one or more violations of federal criminal law, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty.
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It will be prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Eric Gerard and Patrick Scruggs.