A San Luis Obispo judge ruled Wednesday that a London resident and dark web user, who is the key witness in a murder-for-hire case that is expected to soon go to trial, will be allowed to testify in court.
Beau Brigham, a 33-year-old Riverside man, allegedly used the dark web to hire a hit on his stepmother for $3.50 and then canceled the hit. Nonetheless, Brigham is charged with a single felony count of solicitation of murder, to which he has pleaded not guilty.
Chris Monteiro, a self-described cybercrime researcher and expert on the dark web, brought the allegation that Brigham tried to hire a hitman to kill his stepmother to the CBS program 48 Hours, which ran a segment on the case. CBS forwarded the allegations to the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office, which is now prosecuting the case.
Brigham’s father died in 2011. In 2015, Brigham and his brother, Brandon, sued their stepmother for taking part of their inheritance and won a large judgement against her.
At a preliminary hearing earlier this year, a San Luis Obispo detective testified that the woman said she was in debt to the Brigham brothers for more than $1 million. She claimed, though, that if she died, the brothers would immediately received dividends from a trust account.
During a pre-trial hearing on Wednesday, Monteiro testified that he hacked into a dark web site that contained posts related to murder-for-hire plots and that a murder actually occurred in Minnesota following an unsuccessful solicitation on the website. Monteiro claims it was on this website where he discovered the hit Brigham allegedly placed on his stepmother.
Ilan Funke-Bilu, Brigham’s attorney, argued during the pretrial hearing that Monteiro committed illegal acts in order to obtain the information he passed on to media and prosecutors. Funke-Bilu questioned Monteiro’s credibility and expertise on the cybercrime.
In response to Funke-Bilu’s questioning, Monteiro admitted to making child pornography, as well as to being arrested by British police for solicitation of mass murder connected to the dark web site he was using. Monteiro testified that he was framed for murder as retaliation for his investigative work.
Following the testimony, Judge Jesse Marino ruled much of the evidence Monteiro delivered to prosecutors can be included in the trial. Marino decided to exclude messages gathered by Monteiro that are copies, rather than originals.
Marino previously stated he has concerns about the genesis of the case involving Monteiro, a crusading hacker from London. Marino placed a gag order on the case, barring the prosecution and the defense from speaking with the media about the trial.
The case had been delayed as Monteiro reportedly struggled to obtain a visa to enter the United States and encountered legal issues while doing so. In order to bring Monteiro to the United States, the prosecution granted him immunity from prosecution for any criminal actions related to the case including perjury.