Resurrection 46

This is a chapter of the book I am writing for NaNoWriMo. If you want to read it from the start, click here for the chapter index.

Communication

Joel Sandler was not only a millionaire, he was a clever man. In 2001 the Lower Merion, Pennsylvania man was not looking for a divorce, he was looking for a hitman. He reached out to a friend, a heavy gambler who Sandler believed had mob ties, asking him if he could put him in touch with someone.

The friend, not nearly as trustworthy as Sandler had assumed, immediately went to the police.

The police provided an undercover to pose as the hitman. The goal was to get Sandler on tape detailing the crime, then they would arrest him. But Sandler was cautious. He prepared what he considered a foolproof plan to avoid such a scenario. Before the meeting he created a deck of index cards with words, phrases and sentences he would use to communicate with the hitman. That way there could be no tape of him saying anything to anyone about the murder.

Surprisingly his plan almost worked. He met the undercover in the parking lot of the TGI Fridays in the King of Prussia Mall in April, 2001. He detailed, using the index cards, exactly what he wanted done with his wife and with her body once she was killed. When the meeting was over, Sandler slid the index cards back into his pocket.

The police had no recording. Without evidence of the content of the conversation in the parking lot, Sandler could never be charged. But Sandler made a simple, ultimately damning, mistake. As he placed the cards back into his pocket, one slid out and landed on the pavement.

When he was arrested, that single card became enough to convince the jury Sandler was guilty*.

Communication between criminals planning a crime can be tricky. It leaves traces everywhere. Cell phone calls leave records. Emails contain crucial, incriminating information. Just logging into a website reveals the user’s IP address which is typically tied to some billing information.

People, especially criminals, have tried various means to avoid a paper or digital trail where they can be traced. For minor things, like setting up an account to pose as someone else for a minor deception, a virtual private network can be enough. A virtual private network is simply a web server somewhere else you can log into and then tell that server what sites you want to visit. This hides the IP addresses of the sites you visit from your own internet service provider.

This has some benefit, but it is limited. Your ISP still knows you logged in to a VPN and, if the VPN is in a jurisdiction that will honor US Subpoenas, they can find out what sites you visited, who you communicated with.

When one is dealing with a hitman, much higher levels of security are necessary.

“I would like you to put me in touch with Mr. Black,” said Jon Langston once Thornton had finished his report.

“I see,” replied Thornton. “After today you and I will no contact until this matter is resolved.”

“Understood, thank you, Jack.” Langston left.

Jack picked up the phone and dialed Bob Phillips.

“Bob, I need you to put Mr. Black in touch with Jon Langston.” Jack gave Bob Langston’s person cell and disconnected. Jack would have no more contact in this matter. Jack didn’t know who Mr. Black was, nor his real name, and he preferred to keep it that way.

Bob did not know Mr. Black’s real name either, but he did know how to get in contact with him.

Bob opened his Onion Router browser. The Onion Router, or “Tor” for short is a volunteer network set up specifically to protect the location and identity of a user. Bob wasn’t exactly sure how it worked, but he knew the basics. Through some kind of computer magic, anything he typed or any site he visited would be encrypted and then bounced off hundreds of different locations, none able to be traced backwards no matter how persistent the authorities might try to be.

He could not contact Mr. Black directly. He would first visit Gmail and create a new account. It would be a strange looking email, just a series of numbers, 8920947. He would create a new email, leaving the “to” address blank, putting the details of the job in the message body. He would then save the draft and exit the account.

Once the account was established, he would go to the San Francisco Craigslist and place a wanted ad in the automotive section looking for a 1952 Cadillac Eldorado. Each ad would be slightly different.

Wanted 1952 Cadillac Eldorado

I am looking for a 1952 Cadillac Eldorado.
Any condition as long as the numbers match.
$CASH for the right car.
Dealers welcome.
This is a real offer.
Send a pic with
$Price and any details.
8920947

The odd ad was done this way for a reason. Each letter of the first seven lines made up the password for the account. The last line was the username.

Tab would check the site daily looking for an ad for a 1952 Eldorado. Cadillac didn’t start making the Eldorado until 1953. When he saw this ad, he immediately logged into his Tor browser, and then logged into the gmail account.

The message simply had the name and address of the client along with the payment details, in this case 2-50/50, meaning the client wanted two people killed and the payment would be $50,000.00 upon acceptance and $50,000.00 upon completion. It was Tab’s regular rate.

Tab made note of the name and address, the deleted the text in the draft, replacing it simply with “Message Received”. He saved that draft as well, then went over to his study cabinet and pulled out two of the many new, unused burner phones he kept there.

He wrote a quick note:

Mr. Langston,

I will call this phone shortly after you receive it. Make sure to keep it on your person. If you do not answer I will not complete any work. This is the only way you will be contacted.

Mr. Black

Opening the first, he made note of the number then added it to the contacts on the second. He then pulled a standard USPS box from his desk, sealed the first phone in it along with a note, and addressed it to Jon Langston.

The second he placed in his pocket. He then drove to the post office and mailed it through the drop box. He knew it would arrive in two days.


* http://www.timesherald.com/article/JR/20050209/NEWS01/302099996

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One Comment on “Resurrection 46”

  1. ron877 says:

    Wow! There is a cop shibboleth “We eventually win because criminals are basically stupid.” Anyone want to name the above procedures the product of innate stupidity?

    Liked by 1 person


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