A federal jury in Tampa, Fla., on Thursday found a Killeen woman guilty of murder-for-hire, retaliating against witnesses and conspiring to create counterfeit securities.
Priscilla Ann Ellis, 52, could be sentenced up to 30 years in federal prison. Her sentencing isn’t yet scheduled, according to a Justice Department news release.
This conviction added to her October conviction for international money laundering and conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.
Perry Don Cortese, 53, a Bell County lawyer who worked in Little River-Academy, was convicted along with Ellis and Ellis’ daughter, Kenietta Rayshawn Johnson, 35, of Kansas.
Ellis was indicted Nov. 22 on charges of witness retaliation and murder-for-hire, but a superseding indictment filed Jan. 17 added the counterfeit security conspiracy charge, according to the release.
While in custody at the Pinellas County Jail, Ellis used the next 48 hours to ask inmates to help her find a hitman to murder several people who testified against her. An FBI agent, posing as a hitman, was hired by Ellis to murder one trial witness and to kill the mother of another to retaliate against them for testifying against her. On Oct. 28, a member of Ellis’ family gave a down payment to the undercover agent.
While the plans were made, Ellis contacted a Nigerian-based counterfeiter to create counterfeit cashiers’ check images, steal bank customer information to open new accounts and email the images to other conspirators in the United States to print and cash or deposit into new accounts.
Those funds were to be wired into yet other accounts the conspirators controlled or cashed, the release said.
Part of the reason for the elaborate scheme was to pay for the two contract murders. The intended loss of the scheme was several million dollars.
Investigating the case was the FBI and the Austin Police Department.