A seemingly mild-mannered Houston man is awaiting sentencing in what authorities say was a bizarre international murder-for-hire plot whose target was a would-be Ukrainian Internet bride.
David Sartin, 49, was so incensed when he found out the Ukrainian beauty he'd met through a website had taken him to the cleaners that he tried to have her kidnapped and shipped to his home, according to the Houston Chronicle. The unemployed man planned to keep Elena Barykina imprisoned in a fortified room in his house while he slowly killed her with lead poisoning, according to authorities. Last week, Sartin pleaded guilty to attempted kidnapping and brandishing a firearm in connection with the case.
Taped conversations between Sartin and an undercover Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent recorded in January and February captured Sartin agreeing to pay $50,000 to the agent to abduct Barykina in Kiev and have her "shipped in a crate" to the U.S. He told the agent he would "take care of her," killing her with "lead poisoning," according to authorities.
Sartin's father told the paper he doesn't think his son was ever going to kill anyone, but Sartin did express his heartbreak and anger last year in a letter to the website InternetScamsWatch.com, in which he named Barykina and detailed the jewels and cash he'd given her on a half-dozen trips to see her in the Ukraine.
"I have learned that all during this two years I have been sending her money by wire transfer as she as requested she is also doing the same to many other men," Sartin wrote. "It was all a fraud from the beginning."
Sartin, who lived in a trailer in Hankamer, 25 miles east of Houston, first came across Barykina in 2009, when he found a website called dream-marriage.com, that touts itself as the place to meet "beautiful Russian women and sexy Ukrainian brides to be." He was instantly attracted to Barykina’s profile and made contact with her even though his father warned him not to.
"But my son was lonely, and she was prettier and could talk sweeter than me," Cecil Sartin told the Chronicle.
Barykina could not be reached for comment. Calls and an email to dream-marriage.com were not returned. But the site, which claims to be legitimate, has a section warning that con artists can use it to dupe the lovelorn and warns visitors to be careful.
"A scammer is any member, whether male or female, who intentionally uses our site for ulterior purposes," a warning on the site states. "A scammer has no intention of engaging in a meaningful relationship with the other members on our site. In short, a scammer is a deceiver and only communicates with the other members to fulfill some other need. Unfortunately, this need is usually some type of personal and/or financial gain."
Over the next two years, after making contact with Barykina, Sartin, who lived off disability checks and a divorce settlement, claims he made nearly half-a-dozen trips overseas to see Barykina, showering her with $15,000 worth of jewelry and spending thousands more taking her on lavish trips and funding her living and school expenses as well as her attempts at a singing career. During one trip, he claims he discovered Barykina, who had refused to consummate their relationship, had a boyfriend in the Ukraine.
Sartin, who claimed in his letter to InternetScamsWatch.com that he spend more than $57,000 on Barykina, told the site he considered suicide.
"I had no idea I was being scammed, as I believed in this girl with all of my heart and she knew this," he wrote. "This is a very cruel thing to do to a person. My first thought upon arriving back home was to put an end to myself, but I was feared of not hitting the right spot and the pain would be bad."
Instead, authorities say, he plotted revenge. Court records show he asked the undercover agent to deliver Barykina to him and said he wanted to "eliminate" her Russian boyfriend, too. In March, Sartin bought supplies he used to build a fortified room onto his trailer and paid the undercover agent a $25,000 down payment for the kidnapping, records said. Two weeks later, Sartin went to meet the agent in a Beaumont parking lot, where he expected Barykina to be turned over to him.
Federal agents arrested him, federal prosecutor Joe Batte told the Chronicle. In his truck, they found an envelope with the final $25,000 payment, handcuffs, stun gun and a pistol.
But Cecil Sartin told the paper his son just wanted to get his money back.
"He just wanted to get her over here so he could sue her," the elder Sartin said. "And in the back of his heart, I think he was still hoping they might have a life together."