Craigslist ad linked to alleged plot to kill rival

Times Staff Writer

It was a Craigslist ad to die for.

A federal grand jury here has accused a 48-year-old woman of taking out an ad on the website to try to hire someone to kill her lover's wife for $5,000.

Ann Marie Linscott, a Rockford, Mich., mother of two teenagers who has been married for two decades, was indicted on three counts of attempted murder-for-hire this week in the foiled Internet plot.

Three people answered her help-wanted ad, titled simply "Freelance," figuring it was for a home-based business or writing.

But when they responded to the e-mail address "bourne2run," Linscott said that she was seeking "silent assassins" willing to "eradicate" a Northern California woman named Carol, according to a government affidavit. Carol is the 56-year-old wife of the lover Linscott met online, FBI agents said.

Instead of going along with the alleged murder-for-hire scheme, the three who answered the ad went to the police.

Linscott was arrested Jan. 24 at her family's home in the suburbs of Grand Rapids. A federal magistrate in Michigan has ordered her transferred to California, but earlier this week David Kaczor, Linscott's attorney, won a two-week stay in his attempt to reach a plea bargain with prosecutors.

Kaczor said in court papers that Linscott hopes to plead guilty in Michigan and be sentenced there, closer to her family. "It would serve the interest of justice and convenience," Kaczor said.

"It's a pretty unusual case," said Assistant U.S. Atty. Michelle Rodriguez, who filed the case in U.S. District Court in Sacramento.

Rodriguez declined to discuss details but said "there are discussions" about transferring the case to Michigan.

Linscott's husband, John Linscott, said at a hearing last week that he intends to stand by his wife, a former Coast Guard recruit who now works as a massage therapist. He denied the two were having marital difficulties.

But court papers filed by the FBI describe how the love Ann Marie Linscott found on the Internet allegedly turned into homicidal obsession.

According to agents, Linscott encountered her lover, identified only as a married resident of Oroville, Calif., while both were taking an online college course in 2004 or 2005.

Their conversations led to a long and intimate cyberspace relationship. They met in July 2005 in Reno, Nev., and then again months later at his home in Butte County.

Linscott told her lover she intended to move to Northern California to be nearer to him, the affidavit said. He told agents that they communicated regularly by phone and by e-mail.

She allegedly began attempting to hire a hit man last November, when she placed the ad on Craigslist. In e-mail messages, Linscott told those who replied to her ad that her only fear was that the murder might lead police to her. She told one of the respondents that she would pay $5,000 plus expenses. "This IS a serious proposition," she wrote, according to court papers.

Officials at Craigslist said this is the first time the website has been used in such a plot -- and they're not surprised the people who responded to the ad did the right thing. Jim Buckmaster, Craigslist CEO, said that the vigilance of Craigslist users and the fact that the website provides a trail of "electronic evidence" for any subsequent investigation makes it an "inhospitable place for felonious activity, and an unwise choice for would-be criminals."

Alerted to the scheme, federal agents questioned Linscott's lover and then swooped down on her Michigan home.

FBI Special Agent Islam Omar said in an affidavit that when agents showed Linscott copies of e-mails, she told them she had used computers at her home and at Grand Rapids Community College.

Investigators asked Linscott -- who could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted -- what she meant in one e-mail by the word "eradicate." Her response: "Duh. Well, to have her killed."

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eric.bailey@latimes.com

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