Assassination Threat Sent to Phoenix New Times Writer Turns Out to Be Scam

Turns out that someone didn't pay a hitman to kill us -- after all.

This morning, we received an e-mail at work titled, "Do or Die, Urgent Reply" from one "Hitman Sapp." Sapp wrote that he'd been following us for some time, and that he'd been paid by someone we knew to "terminate" us.

But he said if we paid him $15,000, he'd spare our life and give us video evidence that we could use to prosecute his "employer." He warned not to contact the police, or he would come after our family.

Yikes, we thought, this Hitman Sapp's cold.

The full text of the e-mail's after the jump.

This is the only way I could contact you for now, I want you to be very careful about this and keep this secret with you until I make out space for us to see. You have no need of knowing who I am or where I am from. I know this may sound very surprising to you but it's the situation. I have been paid some ransom in advance to terminate you with some reasons listed to me by my employer. It's someone I believe you call a friend; I have followed you closely for a while now and have seen that you are innocent of the accusations he leveled against you. Do not contact the police or try to send a copy of this to them, because if you do, I will know, and I might be pushed to do what I have been paid to do. Besides, this is the ist time I turn out to be a betrayer in my job. I took pity on you, that is why I have made up my mind to help you if you are willing to help yourself.

Now listen, I will arrange for us to see face to face, but before that, I need $15,000. I will come to your home or you determine where you wish we meet; I repeat, do not arrange for the cops and if you play hard to get, it will be extended to your family. Do not set any camera to cover us or set up any tape to record our conversation; my employer is in my control now. Payment details will be provided for you to make a part payment of $9,000 first, which will serve as guarantee that you are ready to co-operate, then I will post a copy of the video tape that contains his request for me to terminate you which will be enough evidence for you to take any legal action against him before he employs another person for the job. You will pay the balance of $6,000 once you receive the tape.

Warning; do not contact the police, make sure you stay indoors once it is 7.30pm every day until this whole thing is sorted out, if you neglect any of these warnings, you will have yourself to blame. You do not have much time, so get back to me immediately

Note: I will advise you keep this to yourself alone, not even a friend or a family member should know about it because it could be one of them.

Our gut was that this was another e-mail scam, like the one where some distant relative we've never me in some country we never been to leaves us a huge inheritance, but we have to pay thousands of dollars in "advance fees" before we can collect (a lot of people got suckered with that one).

But the ominous tone of this letter -- the fact that it smacked of extortion and threatened our life and family -- was different. Because the hitman refers to his employer as "he," we walked around the office asking male co-workers if any of them paid to have us bumped off.

Nobody fessed up, but one guy sure did look suspicious (you know who you are)!

After forwarding the e-mail to our editor and considering calling the cops, we Googled "Hitman Sapp" and only got a few stories on former NFL defensive tackle and quarterback sack-meister Warren Sapp. Then, we Googled one sentence from the letter, in quotation marks. The first hit was a warning from the Missouri Attorney General called "Hitman scam."

Apparently, numerous random people have received e-mails identical to this one, and there's no doubt it's a scam meant to scare people into shelling out cash.

We're not even the first journalist to get this e-mail -- according to this story in Euro Weekly News, one of their columnists, Leapy Lee, got the same missive in June. The story indicates the "Hitman Scam" may have originated in Russia in 2006, but this story about one scam-buster pretending to be a gullible girl has the "hitman" instructing her to send the money to an address in Nigeria.

We feel a little better now that we know nobody's making concrete shoes for us. And if anybody wants to contact "Hitman Sapp" with an offer he can't refuse, his e-mail address is [email protected].