The following press release was issued by the U.S. Attorney's Office of the Southern District of Indiana on Friday, January 6, 2023.
INDIANAPOLIS – Robert Mason Elliott, 28, of Shelbyville, Indiana, was sentenced to 520 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to two counts of murder for hire, witness tampering, illegally possessing a firearm, and producing and distributing child sexual abuse material.
According to court documents, Robert Mason Elliott met Minor Victim 1 in 2017, when she was 16 years old. He was later charged with domestic battery of Minor Victim 1 and barred by several court orders from having contact with Minor Victim 1. In violation of those orders, and while Elliott was on pretrial release, Elliott attempted to deliver heroin to the minor when she was home with her mother, Witness Victim 1. Elliott was subsequently charged with dealing narcotics in Shelby County, Indiana. During the investigation, officers also discovered that Elliott had produced and distributed child sex abuse material of Minor Victim 1 over Facebook.
Elliott was detained pending trial on these state offenses. While incarcerated in the Shelby County Jail on February 20, 2018, Elliott used a jail phone to instruct his mother to hire a member of the Hells Angels motorcycle club to kill or commit serious bodily injury to Witness Victim 1 to prevent her from testifying against him. Elliott’s mother hired the Hells Angel to commit serious bodily injury to Witness Victim 1 in exchange for $500. The jail calls between Elliott and his mother, as well as the calls and texts to the Hells Angel, were recorded and intercepted by law enforcement officials.
After his first attempt was unsuccessful, Elliott then engaged in a second murder for hire plot from inside the Shelby County Jail. Elliott offered three different Shelby County inmates $5,000 per person to kill Minor Victim 1, Witness Victim 1, and another individual. The three inmates provided information to law enforcement officials who again thwarted Elliott’s plan.
On May 7, 2019, Elliott was indicted in federal court for offenses related to child exploitation and illegal firearm possession.
While detained in Marion and Henderson County Jails on those federal charges, Elliott again attempted to have Minor Victim 1 and Witness Victim 1 killed. This time, Elliott asked a cooperating witness to provide him with the phone number for a “cartel hitman.” Through letters, calls, and texts, Elliott hired the individual he believed to be a “cartel hitman” to prevent the witnesses from testifying against him in their state and federal proceedings. Elliott offered, in coded language, to exchange heavy duty equipment, a motorcycle, and military-grade weapons including shoulder-launched multipurpose assault weapons and M203 grenade launchers for the murders. Elliott provided the “cartel hitman” with the victims’ first and last names, Facebook accounts, locations, and places of employment. Elliott conspired with his grandfather to provide the equipment, motorcycle, and military-grade weapons to the purported hitman.
Unbeknownst to Elliott, the “cartel hitman” he contacted during this third attempt to have Minor Victim 1 and Witness Victim 1 murdered was an undercover federal agent. All calls and texts between Elliott, his grandfather, and the “cartel hitman” were recorded. Federal agents executed a search warrant at Elliott’s grandfather’s home and recovered a 2008 Hayabusa motorcycle and at least twenty firearms, including several assault rifles, and thousands of rounds of ammunition. Elliott had agreed to provide the guns, motorcycle, and ammunition the hitman in exchange for killing federal and state witnesses. One of the firearms was illegally purchased for Elliott by another individual, who agreed to falsify federal firearms purchasing forms and provide Elliott with the gun in exchange for a meal at Olive Garden.
Elliott’s repeated efforts to procure the murders of his victim, her mothers, and a witness were unsuccessful.
On June 14, 2022, Elliott pleaded guilty to two counts of Murder for Hire, two counts of Witness Tampering, and one count being a felon in possession of a firearm. Elliott further stipulated in a plea agreement that he had produced and distributed child sex abuse material.
“The defendant’s heinous, violent crimes demonstrate an utter disrespect for the law or the value of human life,” said Zachary A. Myers, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana. “His physical abuse and sexual exploitation of a child were compounded by his relentless attempts to have the victim and her mother murdered. Only a lengthy federal prison term like the one imposed today will ensure that the victims and the public are protected from this dangerous criminal. I commend the outstanding efforts of our prosecutors, the FBI, the Shelby County Sheriff’s Department, and the Shelby County Prosecutor’s Office to stand up for victims and hold violent abusers accountable.”
“This defendant’s abuse of a minor victim was beyond despicable. He physically and sexually assaulted her, sought to provide her with dangerous narcotics, and had no qualms about killing the minor victim and others in a desperate and twisted attempt to get away with it. Today, the court determined that these horrible crimes deserve a lengthy term of imprisonment.” said FBI Indianapolis Special Agent in Charge Herbert J. Stapleton. “The FBI will continue our efforts with our law enforcement partners to ensure the most vulnerable in our society are protected from individuals such as this who would seek to harm them.”
The FBI, Shelby County Sheriff’s Department, and Shelby County Prosecutor’s Office investigated this case. The sentence was imposed by U.S. District Court Chief Judge Tanya Walton Pratt. Judge Pratt also ordered that Elliott be supervised by the U.S. Probation Office for 5 years following his release from federal prison. Elliott must also pay restitution of $5,000 each to Minor Victim 1 and Witness Victim 1.
U.S. Attorney Myers thanked Assistant United States Attorneys Tiffany J. Preston and Kristina M. Korobov, who prosecuted this case.
In fiscal year 2019, the most recent year for which data is available, the Southern District of Indiana was second out of the 94 federal districts in the country for the number of child sexual exploitation cases prosecuted.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.justice.gov/psc