Texas Woman Found Guilty Of Murder-For-Hire Plot To Kill Trial Witnesses
Tampa, Florida – United States Attorney A. Lee Bentley, III announces that a federal jury today found Priscilla Ann Ellis (52, Killeen, TX) guilty of murder-for-hire, retaliating against witnesses, and conspiring to create counterfeit securities. She faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in federal prison. A sentencing date has not yet been scheduled.
Ellis was first indicted on November 22, 2016, on charges of witness retaliation and murder-for-hire. A superseding indictment was filed on January 17, 2017, adding the counterfeit security conspiracy charge.
According to evidence presented at trial, on October 21, 2016, Ellis and two co-defendants were convicted at trial of conspiracies to commit international money laundering and mail and wire fraud. They were remanded to custody at the Pinellas County Jail. Over the next 48 hours, Ellis solicited other inmates to assist her in finding a hitman to murder several witnesses who had testified for the government during the trial. She then “hired” an undercover FBI agent posing as the hitman to murder one trial witness and to kill the mother of another in retaliation for the witnesses’ testimony. 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.
As the murder-for-hire plot unfolded, Ellis conspired with a Nigerian-based counterfeiter to create counterfeit cashiers’ check images, steal bank customer data to open new bank accounts, and email the counterfeit check images to conspirators in the United States to print and cash or deposit into the new accounts. From there, the illicit funds were to be wired into other accounts controlled by the conspirators or distributed as cash. The scheme was devised, in part, to pay for the two contract murders. The intended loss of the scheme was several million dollars.
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the City of Austin (Texas) Police Department. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Eric K. Gerard and Patrick Scruggs, who also tried the case last October.