Sports Direct worker who tried to hire a dark web hitman has sentence halved to six years

A Sports Direct employee who tried to hire a hit man to kill her rival colleague today had her sentence cut in half to six years.

Whitney Franks, 27, took to the dark web to find a hitman to kill Ruut Ruutna after the two women became involved in a love triangle with their boss. She offered £1,000 in BitCoin for the hit.

She hired what she believed to be a gunman with ties to the notorious Mexican Sinaloa drug cartel, but the website she used to select the killer turned out to be a scam.

She was sentenced to 12 years in prison at Reading Crown Court last September after jurors convicted her of incitement to murder, but that has now been reduced to six years by appeal judges.

Whitney Franks, 27, (pictured) tried to hire a hit man to kill her rival colleague. She was sentenced to 12 years in prison at Reading Crown Court last September after jurors convicted her of incitement to murder, but that has now been reduced to six years by appeal judges.

Franiks searched the dark web for a hitman to kill colleague Ruut Ruutna (photo) after the two women became involved in a love triangle with their boss.  She offered £1,000 in BitCoin for the hit

Franiks searched the dark web for a hitman to kill colleague Ruut Ruutna (photo) after the two women became involved in a love triangle with their boss. She offered £1,000 in BitCoin for the hit

Franks tried to hire a hitman on a website that claimed to be connected to the cartel and advertised selling “murder, drugs, and guns.”

She wanted a gunman to travel to Milton Keynes and take out Ms Ruutna, giving her intended victim’s home and contact details, London’s Court of Appeal heard.

The message she posted in August 2020 to recruit a killer read, “I’m looking for someone for the murder of a woman.”

Franks offered £1,000 for the hit, saying she could pay more if necessary.

She was exposed by an investigative journalist who accidentally discovered her post while researching the world of Mexican gangsters on the dark web.

At her trial, she claimed she never intended to carry out the murder, but the jury rejected her defense and she was convicted.

“Naive and immature” Franks hatched her plot after becoming entangled in a tortured love triangle between her manager, James Perst, and their mutual colleague, Mr. Justice Hilliard.

Franks was torn with fear after learning that Mr. Prest had seen them both and accused him of “sneaking” to Miss Ruutna’s house at night.

The judge who sentenced her said Franks’ crime was committed against the backdrop of Covid and extended isolation as she was ‘locked at home trying to access the dark web’, and may not have thought about what she was doing .

But this week Franks successfully challenged her 12-year sentence in the Court of Appeals with claims that it was disproportionate and excessive.

Her attorney, James McCrindell, pointed out that Franks had changed her mind about the murder and only played with her murderous web plan for two or three days.

She previously had “excellent character,” he told the court, was a model inmate behind bars and is currently taking a cat studies course.

Franks was torn with fear after learning that her manager, James Perst, (pictured) had seen them both and accused him of

Franks was torn with fear after learning that her manager, James Perst, (pictured) had seen them both and accused him of “sneaking” to Miss Ruutna’s house at night

“She would like to have a career in helping animals in the fullness of time,” he added.

After an hour-long hearing, Judge Hilliard, sitting with two other judges, allowed her appeal, reducing Franks’ sentence from 12 to six years.

He noted the devastating impact of her crime on her victim, who was terrified, had panic attacks, and even fled Milton Keynes for a while to get over her ordeal.

“There’s no telling what would have happened if someone capable of committing murder had contacted Franks,” the judge said.

“Eventually they didn’t and she called it quits, but her use of the dark web was a seriously aggravating feature of the case, as was her willingness to use a payment device that would have been difficult to trace.”

But he noted that there were no clear guidelines for sentencing this new type of crime, adding: “No attempted murder has ever been committed or even possible.

“The contact here was purely preliminary and no price had been agreed, though Franks did not know that those she interacted with would never carry out her wishes.”

He ruled that her 12-year sentence was excessive and reduced it to six years.

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