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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of New York

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, March 8, 2019

East Aurora Woman Arrested For Attempting To Hire A Hitman To Maim Her Ex-boyfriend

CONTACT: Barbara Burns
PHONE: (716) 843-5817
FAX #: (716) 551-3051

BUFFALO, N.Y. - U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that Yanyan Lesser, 47, of East Aurora, NY, was arrested and charged by criminal complaint with transmitting in interstate or foreign commerce a communication containing a threat to injure another person. The charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and $250,000.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie O. Lamarque, who is handling the case, stated that according to the complaint, on February 19, 2019, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in St. Paul, Minnesota, received information that between February 14, 2019, and February 19, 2019, an unidentified individual utilizing the moniker “TREE I,” conspired with another unknown individual on a dark web site to commit a crippling assault of an individual (G.Z.) living in Orlando, Florida.1 “TREE I” directed what was believed to be a hitman found via the dark web site to break G.Z.'s bones and leave him permanently confined to a wheelchair or crutches.

Some of the instructions provided by “TREE I” to the purported hitman included:

• “Because of a business dispute, I would like to give this guy a lesson:give him a good beating and legs broken, waist broken and even cripple the mark of his legs.It need to be looks like a robbery, looks like To rob of his money or property,NOT looks like revenge.”

• “I will add $2500 more to cover the cost of beating, crippling and robbery look like job. Please remember must be looks like a ROBBERY!That's very important!”

• “And please let hitman knows that Chinese guy no speak English also no understanding English too.So when hitman to do the job with crippling   and looking like robbery,Remember to Yelled at that Chinese guy:"MONEY!MONEY! " Because that's only the English word that guy can understand it!” 
 
On February 16, 2019, “TREE I” transferred approximately 1.26 Bitcoin (BTC) (approximately $4,577.51 cash) to a BTC wallet address in the control of the dark web site to facilitate the assault. On February 19, 2019, “TREE I” conducted another transfer of approximately .694 BTC (approximate.ly $2,707.95 cash) to the same BTC wallet address to further the request. “TREE I” also provided a photograph of an unknown individual's lower back area with the words "broken waist" written across it.

On February 20, 2019, HSI Orlando conducted an interview of G.Z. at his residence. G.Z. stated that he was not aware of any threat against him, but stated that he believed that his ex-girlfriend, the defendant, was unstable and would be capable of doing something like this.

Subsequent investigation, including a review of cell phone and bank records, determined that “TREE I” is the defendant.

Yanyan will make an initial appearance at 2:00 p.m. this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeremiah J. McCarthy.

The complaint is the result of an investigation by Homeland Security Investigations Buffalo, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Kevin Kelly. Additional assistance was provided by HSI St. Paul, Minnesota, and HSI Orlando, Florida. 

The fact that a defendant has been charged with a crime is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.  

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Updated March 8, 2019