An Indiana woman’s murder-for-hire plot fell apart earlier this year when she tried paying a hitman to kill the wrong man, according to court records. The man she mistakenly targeted — a U.S. Navy officer — then worked with the FBI to help catch her, court records said.
Tisha Raines, 45, was arrested this month after she offered an undercover FBI agent $5,000 to murder a scammer she said “took a bunch of money off me,” according to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court on August 14. Raines was recently released from prison after serving a years-long drug sentence.
Raines first spoke in person to the agent posing as a hitman in May in New Castle, Indiana, telling the agent that the man she wanted dead was in the armed forces, and was possibly deployed. Raines showed the FBI agent a picture of the man from her phone. He was wearing U.S. Navy fatigues and a chest placard revealed his name. The supposed hitman snapped a picture of the image Raines showed him, according to court records.
The agent told Raines that — because “this guy is gonna be dead” — he needed some of the $5,000 from her in advance, court records said. The conversation was secretly recorded, and a surveillance team was nearby keeping watch.
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That’s when Raines offered “a baggie of suspected methamphetamine” as the down payment in the murder-for-hire plot — and she agreed to get more meth from a nearby hotel that day as further payment, telling the agent she wanted the scammer murdered “so bad,” court records said.
Then Raines drove to the nearby hotel, went in for 35 minutes, and came out with more drugs, which she delivered to the undercover agent, court records said. The surveillance team tailed her as she scored the drugs — and once she handed them to the agent, the pair agreed to move forward, according to the complaint.
“We got an understanding, right?” the undercover agent asked Raines, according to the complaint. “And this dude is going to end up dead.”
“Ok,” she responded, the complaint said.
In the weeks after the initial May meeting, the pair swapped occasional texts. After getting cryptic texts from the supposed hitman (“I’ve found your package. Will be calling you about the work details.”) Raines appeared to get nervous, court records show.
On May 24, Raines texted that she was worried she couldn’t cobble together the money, the complaint said. She wanted to know if she could still back out of the arrangement.
The agent asked her if money was the real obstacle and if she wanted the “package dropped,” the complaint said. “Money,” she responded. So the pair reached a new agreement: Raines would be able to pay for the hit in narcotics, court records said.
Meanwhile, the FBI reached out to the man in the photo Raines provided, who was a Navy officer in California. But “based on the information provided by Raines about the nature of the scam,” the investigating FBI agent said in the complaint that he didn’t think the officer was scamming Raines; instead, the agent suspected the officer’s identity had been stolen, and was being used to scam Raines.
That theory fit with what the Navy officer told a California FBI agent who interviewed him. The officer revealed that his photos had been used to create fake social media and dating accounts, and that more than 100 victims of “soft heart” scams had reached out to him about it, according to the complaint. When shown a photo of Raines, the officer said he didn’t recognize her.
The officer said he reported the accounts to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service in 2016 after he realized what was going on.
The FBI asked the Navy officer if he would help them by staging pictures of his own death. He “agreed to help in any way possible,” the complaint said.
In July, the FBI took photos faking the officer’s death, showing him lying on his side in “a desert-like” area with what looked like a bullet hole in his temple. Fake blood dripped from the fake wound. One image showed the “exit wound” and what appeared to be blood and brain matter.
Raines sent another text to the FBI agent in late July, court records said.
“You do not understand,” Raines wrote, according to the complaint. “I have not had extra and I about lost my car because of him taking that from me … And he still blows me up and he will be coming home in late December or early January.”
“No he won’t,” the FBI agent texted back. “I’ll show you next week.”
On August 8, the agent sent two photos of the fake murder.
“Don’t know who that is,” Raines responded, according to the complaint.
A week later, the criminal complaint was filed and Raines was arrested. A judge said Raines will remain in custody until her trial, RTV reports.
The investigation began after Raines asked a person for help finding a hitman, and the person alerted the Henry County Sheriff’s Office, who then reached out to the FBI. The person who informed the sheriff’s office set up the meeting between Raines and the undercover agent, the complaint said.
Raines defense attorney said in court filings that Raines “acknowledges the seriousness of the offense charged,” but “at no time did she ever say or attempt to commit any violence.”