International murder-for-hire plot led to FBI search in this Okla. town

Police and the FBI search a home June 30 in Ponca City. (KOKH/Julie Calhoun)

Court documents show that an international murder-for-hire plot led to an FBI search in Ponca City, an Oklahoma town of about 24,000 people.

On Friday, FBI agents and the Joint Terrorism Task Force served a search warrant at a home in the 2900 block of E. Hartford. The FBI told FOX 25 at the time that a hazardous materials team was searching the home.

The affidavit, unsealed July 1, shows that an investigation into one of the residents of the home, 37-year-old Danielle Layman, began May 9 after a tip was called in to the FBI Public Access Line. The caller reported they were hired to murder an individual in Tel Aviv, Israel.

The caller told the FBI that on May 3 they responded to a a Craigslist post titled "10 day gig overseas for amateur, competitive pay!". The post stated they were looking for an actor for a production overseas. The ad also states that the actor must be "discrete".

The caller then met with the person behind the ad, who was allegedly Layman posing as "Samantha Dowry," at a coffee shop in Ponca City. Court records show that Layman then informed the caller that she wanted to poison someone with ricin and that if the caller told anyone, they would both be killed.

Layman then played a PowerPoint presentation for the caller, laying out the plans on how they would get to Israel, where the caller would stay and who they would kill, a taxi driver.

Layman allegedly told the caller the taxi driver's last name and gave her his phone number and a packet of instructions titled "Operation Insecticide". The caller would be paid $1,000 for personal expenses and lodging in Israel. The instructions told the caller to prepare their body for two weeks in advance for an eight hour time difference. The caller was instructed to pack a lock and key and vials of powder.

Court records show that Layman then gave the caller a small package that contained ricin in its plant form and was told not to open the package without gloves. Ricin is a lethal substance obtained from castor beans.

The caller was advised to tell airport security that the powder they were carrying, the ricin, was a religious relic that is supposed to "ward off evil spirits". When in Israel the caller was told to stay at a hostel and make friends and offer to go on a tourist trip via a taxi service. The caller would then call the number of the man she was provided and tell him that another tourist recommended him. Prior to taking the taxi, the caller was to prepare two cups of coffee and add the ricin powder to one of them and give it to the driver.

The caller was then to repeat the process over several days and monitor the driver's health. The instructions then state:

"When your mark is hospitalized [or] eliminated - move to a different hotel or motel until your flight home"

Court records show the caller would then be paid $4,000 for completion of the task. After the meeting, the caller asked an attorney friend what to do and was told to notify the FBI immediately.

Prior to meeting with the FBI, the caller disposed of the package in a dumpster at an Oklahoma City apartment complex. The FBI tells FOX 25 says there is no public health risk after the ricin was dumped at the complex.

The FBI took the phone number provided to the caller and traced it to a phone belonging to Layman. Layman, an Israeli national living legally in the United States after marrying a US soldier, was discovered to have children with the taxi driver identified as the "target" in the murder-for-hire plot. Media reports from 2014 show that Layman and her then 13-year-old daughter were visiting Israel when her husband filed a suit demanding visitation rights. The daughter was then prevented from leaving the country for an undetermined amount of time, but later allowed to leave.

During the search of Layman's home June 30, agents reportedly found several dozen castor beans, a mortar and pestle and residue of ground castor beans. Agents also found printed instructions on how to make ricin on the kitchen counter of the home. Agents also stated that Layman could be overheard making a phone call with her husband stating that agents would find the instructions in the home.

Layman was arrested following the search of her home. Her attorney argued Monday that she was in a high-risk pregnancy and asked for house arrest. The request was denied until a detention hearing set for July 11. She will remain in federal custody until that time. If convicted of using a facility of interstate commerce to solicit murder she could be sentenced to 10 years in prison.

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