Millionaire Murder Suspect Had Victim Dig Tunnels in Exchange for Tech Startup Investment, Prosecutors Say
A Maryland day trader has been charged with murder in the death of a 21-year-old man he allegedly hired to build a system of tunnels underneath his home to prepare for a North Korea attack.
Daniel Lewis Beckwitt, 27, of Bethesda, Md., was arrested and charged with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter last week in Askia Khafra’s September 2017 death. Beckwitt was indicted on those charges Thursday.
Khafra of Silver Spring, Md., died in a house fire at Beckwitt’s North Bethesda home on Sept. 10, 2017, according to the Montgomery County Police Department. Kahfra’s cause of death was determined to be smoke inhalation and thermal injuries, officials said.
Khafra’s father, Dia Khafra, told the Washington Post his son met Beckwitt on social media two years ago, and the stock trader said he would invest in Khafra’s “Equity Shark” startup. Prosecutors said Beckwitt’s promise was in exchange for Khafra’s work on the tunnel system under his Bethesda home.
“Mr. Beckwitt represented himself as an angel investor,” Dia Khafra said. “I wish my son had not been so naive as to trust this gentleman.”
Prosecutors said that before the deadly fire, Khafra texted Beckwitt from the tunnels about the smell of smoke, but Beckwitt failed to get him out, NBC Washington reports.
But Beckwitt’s lawyer denied those allegations, according to the network, saying his client went back into the house multiple times to try to help Khafra.
“He ended up in the hospital as a result of his efforts to try to save his friend,” Robert Bonsib said.
Bonsib called Beckwitt “an unusual individual” in court Thursday, saying the tunnel project was meant “to create a secure bunker because of [Beckwitt’s] concern about international tensions, North Korea, intercontinental ballistic missiles,” the Post reports.
Beckwitt was expected to be released on $100,000 bond.