May 24, 2024

A Tennessee National Air Guardsman is facing charges for allegedly submitting his resume to what he thought was a website hiring contract killers—but, in reality, was a parody site that tipped off federal authorities.

Josiah Ernesto Garcia, 21, was charged on Thursday with using interstate commerce facilities in the commission of a murder-for-hire after allegedly submitting an employment inquiry to RentAHitman.com in February. According to prosecutors, Garcia said he worked for the Air National Guard while submitting a query expressing interest in “obtaining employment as a hitman.”

“Im looking for a job, that pays well, related to my military experience (Shooting and Killing the marked target) so I can support my kid on the way,” Garcia allegedly wrote in one email, according to a criminal complaint filed in Tennessee federal court. “What can I say, I enjoy doing what I do, so if I can find a job that is similar to it, (such as this one) put me in coach!”

The application spurred a months-long sting, during which Garcia admitted in one phone interview that he was comfortable taking fingers and ears as trophies for his clients. He was asked to do a $5,000 job in April, and was ultimately arrested on April 12 after inquiring as to whether he “needed to take a photo [of the dead body] as proof that the job was complete,” the feds said.

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It was not immediately clear whether Garcia has a lawyer. A spokesperson for the Tennessee Military Department confirmed that Garcia enlisted in the Air National Guard in July 2021—and that the agency is aware of this recent arrest and will support “civil law enforcement as they continue their investigation.”

Garcia is just one of a slew of individuals who have fallen prey to the fake assassin website that was originally created in 2005 to “advertise a cyber security startup company,” prosecutors say. Although the company never took off, the complaint states, the website received “many inquiries about murder-for-hire services” and eventually converted itself “to a parody site that contains false testimonials from those who have purported to use hitman services, and an intake form where people can request services.”

“Caught my husband cheating with the babysitter and our relationship was terminated after a free public relations consultation. I’m single again and looking to mingle,” one of the false testimonials on the website states. “Thanks Guido and RENT-A-HITMAN!”

The complaint notes that the website also has an inquiry form to “apply to work as a hired killer,” which Garcia allegedly submitted on Feb. 16. In his application, Garcia allegedly indicated that he had “military experience and rifle expertise” and required an “in-depth job description.”

The next day, Garcia allegedly reached out again—this time including his Tennessee home address and indicated that he was “looking for employment” but was having trouble with the website. On Feb. 18, the website owner responded to Garcia under the guise of the company’s CEO Guido Fanello, and asked for his resume, headshot, and identification, the complaint states.

Garcia responded the following day and noted that he was “employed with the Air National Guard from July 2021 until present.” In his resume, the complaint states, Garcia also indicated that he was a “Marksman Expert, awarded for not missing a single bullseye on all of the targets and for shooting expert with 2 (or more) weapons.” He also allegedly revealed that his nickname was “Reaper” because of his “Military experience and Marksmanship.”

“Garcia was stating his skillset matched the needs of a company that hires employees to commit murder,” the complaint states, noting that he even sent a follow-up email on Feb. 20 when he did not immediately hear back and included a description of why he wanted the job.

Eventually, after Garcia allegedly sent two additional follow-up emails, the website owner responded on March 16 at the direction of the FBI.

“Josiah, a Field Coordinator will be in touch in the near future. You will receive a message when they are ready. Timing is based on client needs,” the website owner wrote.

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The complaint states that days later, an undercover FBI employee began texting Garcia, posing as a “recruiter for Rent A Hitman” and scheduled a phone interview on April 5. During the call, Garcia again reiterated that he was in the Air National Guard and that he was “a trained military sniper and hoped him being in the military would not disqualify him for the job.”

Garcia also indicated that he preferred to “shoot people from [a] distance,” and asked whether “fifteen to twenty thousand would be too much to ask” for each mark. The complaint notes that the undercover FBI agent also asked Garcia if he “was comfortable with taking fingers or ears as trophies or performing torture at a client’s request.”

“If it’s possible and in my means to do so, I’m more than capable,” Garcia responded, before adding that he would take a job for as little as $2,500 and that he owned an AR-15. “Being in the military, doing that sort of work already. I was looking into civilian law enforcement but that’s not for me. I wanted something more exciting. I started searching the web and then I found this, so here I am.”

The next day, the complaint states that Garcia met the undercover agent at a Nashville restaurant, where he revealed that he had been looking into becoming a hired killer for “some time now” to “make good money.” During the conversation, Garcia even admitted that he was initially worried the agent was law enforcement—but was “now comfortable” after meeting in person and was confident in his military training, according to the documents.

The complaint states that Garcia also indicated that he was looking for a job with flexibility because he was starting college the next year and only works one weekend per month in the Air National Guard.

“You are locked in? This is what you want? Because it sounds like you have a lot going on. You’re in the military. You’ve got college,” the undercover agent asked Garcia, according to the complaint. “You’ve got a lot going on, as far as good things in your life to kinda’ get in this world. It is a shady world, and I just don’t want you to have regrets if you come to work for us, because it, I mean it messes with your mind, shooting people.”

In response, Garcia stated that he had “weighed the psychological effects of killing someone and he was okay with it,” adding that he would prefer to work in another state but he was also “ok to kill some local people.”

When asked if he would be ok with killing 50 targets, Garcia allegedly responded: “That’s rookie numbers for the Reaper.”

On April 9, the complaint states, the undercover agent texted Garcia asking if he was available for an “easy mark” in three days. The pair met on Wednesday, at which point Garcia was presented with a “target packet” that consisted of photos and a description of a fake abusive husband of a client. The job, the agent said, would pay $5,000 if the target was killed within the next 10 days.

Garcia was arrested after taking the money. In an interview with federal authorities, Garcia stated he was looking for work because he needed “money and his family could not afford rent.”

“A co-worker at the Air National Guard suggested to GARCIA that he look for ‘contract mercenary jobs,’” the complaint states. “Garcia searched that term online and came across the rentahitman.com website.”

He told prosecutors that just days before accepting the hit job, “he had he had been hired by Vanderbilt [M]edical and he was scheduled to start training for the job.” After getting the gig, he said he was having second thoughts “about the hitman job and changed his mind.”

“Garcia stated that he was meeting the [undercover agent] to tell him he had changed his mind and did not want to do this kind of work,” the complaint states. “Garcia stated that he was going to call the [undercover agent] when he got to his car and leave the money on the curb for the [undercover agent] to pick up.”

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