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FBI: Man tried to hire assassin, pin murder on cat

EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. - Federal investigators helped by a conscientious paroled killer say they foiled a plot to abduct, extort and electrocute a wealthy man in a scheme they say borrowed elements from a television show and sought to blame the killing on the planned victim's cat.

A criminal complaint against Brett Nash of Pontoon Beach, unsealed Wednesday, identifies the target of the plot only as a former corporate attorney in the southern Illinois industrial town of Granite City who long pursued sex with Nash's wife.

Agents arrested Nash, 45, on Monday near a Kmart in Granite City shortly before the alleged crime was to have taken place. He was arraigned a day later on a felony charge of interference with commerce by violence, attempted extortion, and waived his detention hearing. His public defender, Thomas Gabel, declined to discuss the matter Thursday.

According to an affidavit by FBI Special Agent Nicholas Manns detailing the alleged plot, authorities learned of the alleged plot after an acquaintance Nash enlisted for help earlier this month reported the matter to his former parole the next day. The unidentified recruit, who met Nash years ago while both worked as deckhands on river barges, went on to work for the FBI and secretly recorded conversations with Nash in the next weeks.

The recruit, who has previous convictions for second-degree murder and sexual assault, told Manns "he had straightened out his life, believed in God and could not live with himself if someone were murdered and he had done nothing about it," Manns wrote. The man also feared Nash was setting him up, Manns said.

Nash, insisting he had just $300 in the bank and needed about $37,000 to avert foreclosure, planned to force the intended victim to withdraw large amounts of money from a bank account, telling the recruit the would-be victim had about $250,000 in the bank, Manns wrote. Nash sought to get at least $60,000 of that money, then kill the man in a way that appeared accidental, the affidavit said.

One scenario Nash told the potential accomplice was inspired by a television show involved making the would-be victim believe he was wired with explosives collared around his neck while he drained his bank account for Nash, Manns wrote. Nash also considered carjacking the man and holding him hostage for weeks while forcing him to write Nash a series of checks, Manns wrote.

And another plan Nash explored, the agent said, was forcing the man into a hot tub and electrocuting him with a radio tossed into the water, followed by kitty litter that Nash thought would prompt authorities to believe the animal was the culprit in the killing.

Nash planned to pay his would-be accomplice $5,000 and split the extortion proceeds with him, Manns wrote in the affidavit, and had insisted he could disguise the recruit using makeup tricks he had learned in college.

Investigators who searched Nash's house Monday found a diagram of the intended victim's home, along with a backpack containing a ski mask, handcuffs, a compressed-air pellet gun resembling a semiautomatic pistol, black socks and gloves, a flashlight, plastic bag and black hair dye.

Nash, who has previous convictions including robbery, home invasion, forgery and drug possession, remained jailed without bond Thursday. A message seeking comment was left Thursday at a home telephone listing for him.