Pinellas inmate tried to hire hitman to kill witnesses, jury finds

A Pinellas County inmate has been convicted of trying to hire someone to kill the witnesses who helped land her behind bars, the U.S. Attorney's Office said Thursday.

Priscilla Ann Ellis, 52, of Killeen, Texas, could face 30 years in prison after being found guilty of murder-for-hire, retaliating against witnesses and conspiring to create counterfeit securities. Sentencing has not been scheduled.

According to the attorney's office, Ellis and two co-defendants were found guilty in October of conspiracy to commit international money laundering and mail and wire fraud. She was sent to Pinellas County Jail.

Within the first two days at the jail, she asked other inmates for help to find a hitman to kill witnesses for the government who had testified against her. An undercover FBI posed as a hitman, and she "hired" the agent to kill one witness and the mother of another witness in retaliation.

A family member gave the agent a down payment for the killings, with the rest to be paid after the murders were done.

Meanwhile, as she was still in jail, Ellis conspired with a Nigeria-based counterfeiter to create fake cashier checks, steal bank customers' data to open new accounts and then deposit the fake checks. The funds from the phony accounts were then wired to other accounts. 

The plot was, in part, intended to pay for the contract murders.

The FBI and the Austin, Texas, police investigated the case.

© 2017 WTSP-TV


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