Journalists Working on Story About Dark Web Discover Wisc. Woman's Alleged Murder-for-Hire Plot

After uncovering a murder-for-hire plot while researching a story about the dark web, a team of journalists approached police with the information, and now a Wisconsin woman is behind bars, facing federal criminal charges.

PEOPLE confirms that Kelly Harper, 37, was arrested Friday, and on Monday she was charged with using the Internet to hire someone to commit murder.

Federal investigators allege Harper paid the administrator of a dark web site nearly $6,000 in bitcoin to kill an unidentified man.

Authorities have not disclosed how Harper knows the man, or what motivated her alleged actions.

"The complaint alleges that Harper provided a description of the intended victim, details about the victim's vehicle, where the victim worked, and the victim's cell phone number," reads a statement on the arrest. "The complaint further alleges that payment was made in bitcoin."

According to, the charging documents do not name the journalists, who were working on a story about the dark web  — an anonymous online space only available with specific software that hides identity and location. But the reporters reached out to police in Sun Prairie on Jan. 12 to share their findings. They also contacted the subject of the alleged hit.

One of the journalists informed police that "while investigating a murder-for-hire site on the dark web, they uncovered information showing someone wanted to kill" the intended victim.

The reporters shared online chats that allegedly unfolded between Dec. 3 and Dec. 10, 2020, between Harper and a person claiming to be in charge of a murder-for-hire site.

"The target needs to be killed," Harper allegedly wrote, reports. "He is a white 5 foot 5 male, dark brown short hair, blue eyes, weighs 165 pounds."

The site administrator requested proof Harper could afford the hit, and she allegedly responded by sharing a screenshot of a bitcoin wallet with $5,633.87 in it.

Federal authorities allegedly also discovered an earlier bitcoin transfer between Harper and the administrator of a separate murder-for-hire site.

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The site reports that federal investigators searched Harper's home on Friday and allegedly "uncovered screenshots from a murder-for-hire dark web site, as well as one of the pictures (Harper) sent to the murder-for-hire site administrator" of the intended target.

Harper is being held without bond, and has yet to appear before a judge to enter a plea to the charge.

PEOPLE was unable to ascertain the name of her attorney Wednesday.

If convicted, Harper faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison.

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