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Press Release

East Aurora Woman Pleads Guilty To Attempting To Hire A Hitman On The Dark Web To Cripple Her Ex-Boyfriend

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of New York

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, 48, of East Aurora, NY, pleaded guilty before Senior U.S. District Judge William M. Skretny to 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 a $250,000 fine.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Wei Xiang, who is handling the case, stated that via a website on the dark web, the defendant, using the screenname “Tree1,” solicited what she believed to be a hitman to commit a crippling assault against G.Z., a former boyfriend in Florida. In her solicitation, Lesser posted the following messages:

• On February 14, 2019, the defendant posted, “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.” The defendant also shared an image of a person’s lower back with the words “broken waist” written on it;
• On February 16, 2019, the defendant posted, “Please give him a good beating and let he always walk in wheelchair;”
• On February 18, 2019, the defendant posted, “And also give him good beating of his body, and must be broken his legs to make him walk by wheelchair or crutches forever;”
• On February 19, 2019, the defendant posted, “Make the crippling be permanent, so that Chinese guy will always walk in wheelchair” and “must be broken his legs that he will never heal and never be back to normal, so that he always walk in wheelchair. Remember: crippling! Robbery!”

An unknown subject on the dark web site initially responded to Lesser’s job request on February 14, 2019, urging the defendant to prepare funds for payment. The subject stated: “Sometimes kids or trolls do jokes and are not serious about their job.” On February 16, 2019, Lesser transferred 1.26 bitcoins (approximately $4,577) to a bitcoin address to pay for the beating. On February 19, 2019, the defendant transferred an additional .694 bitcoins (approximately $2,707) to pay for the crippling. Lesser made cash withdrawals in East Aurora relating to these transactions on February 15 and 18, 2019.

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

Sentencing is scheduled for December 4, 2019, at 9:00 a.m. before Judge Skretny.

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Updated August 21, 2019