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Chinese spa worker pleads not guilty in NYC ‘contract murder’ case

According to a law enforcement official who asked not to be identified, Zhou is a Chinese national who was illegally in Flushing, New York, at the time of the alleged crimes.

District Attorney Breon Pearce told the Eastern District Court that Zhou’s “nefarious plan was thwarted only because the website she used to organize the murder-for-hire was a scam.”

“While the project took advantage of newer technologies such as the internet and bitcoin, the end result would have been cold-blooded murder carried out in the traditional manner,” Pearce said.

According to prosecutors, Zhou shopped on the website between late March and early April 2019, looking for a hitman to kill her then-lover’s wife. At the time, Zhou was “emotionally invested” in the relationship and expressed a desire to marry and have children with her lover, they said.

Prosecutors say Zhou, using the online pseudonym “Bigtree,” struck a deal with a Brooklyn-based intermediary to transfer $5,000 in cash to a bitcoin exchange account in Ukraine and then ordered his wife killed after the money was delivered.

Zhou also reportedly provided a detailed description of the potential victim, including her home address, work schedule and ideal hours to carry out the attack, so that the victim’s husband would have an alibi in case of murder.

According to prosecutors, Zhou initially did not know that the website was fake and that there was no hitman on it.

A 42-year-old Chinese woman appeared Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York accused of offering digital currency, cash and sexual favors in exchange for the murder of her lover’s wife and adult daughter. Shutterstock

According to communications prosecutors obtained between Zhou and the site’s administrator, at one point Zhou asked the site to arrange the murder of her second potential victim – the adult daughter of her partner from a previous marriage.

Zhou also contacted her daughter directly in December 2019 with threats such as, “I will cut your body into a hundred pieces” and “I know where you live. I’ve been watching you all the time.”

It was not immediately clear whether the page was set up by authorities or was a commercial operation, or whether Zhou’s lover knew about the plot and was charged separately. It was also unclear what charges, if any, the page’s administrator faces.

Prosecutors said that at some point after making the $5,000 payment, Zhou began to suspect the website was a scam and sent the administrator several “disturbing” messages in which he threatened physical and sexual violence against him and his family.

In arguing that Zhou should not be posted bail, prosecutors said it appeared she had been stalking both of her potential victims.

“Given her coordinated and painstaking efforts to kill multiple individuals, there is no reason to believe that the defendant would not resort to threats and possible actions against potential witnesses, victims, and others who cooperated with the government in its investigation,” they said.

Zhou also allegedly sent a text message to his daughter’s neighbor in February 2021 offering $10,000 and sex if the neighbor killed his daughter and disposed of her body.

“Throw her body into the lake. I really don’t want to see her again,” Zhou allegedly wrote, apparently frustrated that things didn’t go according to plan, according to prosecutors.

Prosecutors said cellphone location data showed the text messages were sent from Zhou’s phone in Cheyenne, Wyoming, where she was allegedly located at the time.

“Over the past several years, the defendant worked for short periods of time at numerous spas across the country that were associated with illegal sex work, including a spa in Cheyenne,” court documents read.

“The Cheyenne spa was raided by local law enforcement for prostitution-related offenses,” as was the Maryland spa where Zhou worked in 2024, they added.

“She had no idea that the website she allegedly believed was being used to solicit a hit man was a farce,” said Ivan Arvelo, a special agent in charge of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. “And the crimes she is accused of soon caught up with her.”