Florida Woman Claims She Was Just Acting in Police Undercover Murder-For-Hire Video

Dalia Dippolito is accused of plotting her now ex-husband's murder.

December 4, 2015, 7:37 AM

— -- On a grainy undercover police video, Dalia Dippolito is seen getting into a car with a man she had never met before -- a man she believed, police say, would kill her husband for her.

But what she didn’t know at the time was that the “hit man” was actually an undercover police officer named Widy Jean with the Boynton Beach, Florida, police department.

“I’m going to tell you how I’m going to do it and what exactly is going to get done,” the undercover officer is heard telling Dippolito in the 2009 video. He then goes on to say that he would break into their house and her husband “gets two in the head.”

“Between now and when it’s done, you know, you’re not going to have an opportunity to change your mind,” the undercover officer continues.

“No, there’s no like-- I’m determined already, I’m positive, like 5,000 percent sure,” Dippolito tells him. “I’m a lot tougher than what I look. I know you came here, and ‘oh what a cute little girl’ or whatever, you know, but I’m not.”

Prosecutors used this undercover tape as part of their case against Dippolito, accusing the south Florida woman of trying to hire a hit man to kill her then-husband Michael Dippolito.

She was convicted of solicitation to commit first-degree murder in 2011, but her original conviction was thrown out. She is scheduled to be re-tried next May.

Dalia Dippolito spoke for the first time about the case in an exclusive interview with ABC News’ “20/20” while on house arrest. Her new defense attorneys, Mark Eiglarsh and Brain Claypool, wouldn’t let Dippolito talk to “20/20” about certain parts of the case because it was a pre-trial interview. But Dippolito denies ever wanting Michael Dippolito killed and claims she did not hire a hit man to carry out a murder plot, that it was all fake.

Armed with a new defense team, Dippolito claims she was just acting and that she, her now ex-husband and a friend set up the whole murder-for-hire video in hopes of posting it on YouTube and gaining reality TV fame. Meanwhile, the reality TV show “COPS” was filming with the Boynton Beach police department on the day of her arrest.

“Now with the attorneys that I have, so much is coming to light to where it would just be insane to not believe me,” she said.

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When Dalia Dippolito first started dating Michael Dippolito, he was still married to another woman. Dalia described him as a “charming” and “really engaging” man.

“I felt a really strong connection,” she said.

But what Dalia Dippolito said she didn’t know at first was that Michael was a paroled felon out on probation.

“After months of being together, his probation officer showed up at our home. I had no idea who it was,” Dalia Dippolito said. “When he told me he just completely downplayed everything... I wouldn’t have dated him if I had known.”

Years prior, Michael Dippolito had been in prison for fraud after scamming investors out of almost $200,000 and he is on probation until 2032. Michael told “20/20” that Dalia knew about his past and that he was on probation.

A few months after they met, Michael Dippolito got a divorce and married Dalia five days after it was finalized. But just six months into their marriage, police claim she wanted him dead.

The Boynton Beach police department received their first tip about Dalia Dippolito’s alleged plot from her friend Mohamed Shihadeh.

Boynton Beach police made Shihadeh a confidential informant and set up hidden cameras that they say captured Dalia Dippolito asking Shihadeh to help her find a hit man to kill her then-husband. In a separate meeting, police say they videotaped her talking with an undercover police officer, who was posing as a hit man, about having Michael Dippolito killed.

"COPS" cameras were recording when Boynton Beach police woke Michael Dippolito early in the morning after Dalia Dippolito had left their home and told him about the alleged murder plot. Boynton Beach police then staged a fake crime scene at Dippolito's home to make it seem like he was killed, setting up police tape on the street and fingerprint dust, and then with “COPS” cameras still rolling, alongside Boynton Beach police cameras, called Dalia Dippolito to tell her to return home.

When she arrived, police recorded her reaction as they notified her that her husband was dead. The police posted a video of Dalia Dippolito at the fake crime scene on YouTube. The video went viral.

At the station, police recorded her as they asked her questions, and then revealed that they have her on tape, that her husband was in fact alive, and that the "hit man" she met was actually an undercover police officer named Widy Jean. During the interrogation she denied ever meeting Jean.

When Dalia Dippolito first went to trial in April 2011, prosecutors argued she was after her husband’s money and his condo. They also argued that she wanted Michael Dippolito out of the way so that she could be with an old boyfriend, and presented sexually graphic text messages in court that they said Dalia exchanged with him.

Dalia claims Michael Dippolito sent those text messages to her old boyfriend as a joke.

“I didn't send those messages from my phone. Mike actually sent those text messages,” she told “20/20.” Michael Dippolito denies that was the case.

It took a jury just three hours of deliberations to find Dalia Dippolito guilty of solicitation to commit first-degree murder. She was sentenced to 20 years in prison, but a Florida appeals court later ruled that the jury had been improperly selected and overturned the conviction.

“It was the first piece of good news throughout the whole process that I received,” Dippolito said.

Dalia Dippolito and her attorneys claim she, Michael Dippolito and Mohamed Shihadeh had set-up a hit man scenario because they were trying to mimic an episode of the television show “Burn Notice.” Shihadeh was a part-time actor who claimed to have appeared on “Burn Notice,” and Dalia said they had hoped their fake murder-for-hire video would make them famous.

“The tape it was-- it was a show, it was a tape, that was the purpose of it,” Dalia Dippolito told “20/20.”

According to Dalia Dippolito’s attorney, Brian Claypool, Shihadeh figured it would be better if the video was recorded on real undercover cameras planted by actual police officers.

"They wanted to submit that, post it on YouTube, to try to get acting parts. That was the plan," Claypool told "20/20." "I'm not here to tell you that what these three folks did was smart."

When Shihadeh realized his plans for the fake video were out of control, he wanted out, Claypool claims, adding that it was pressure from Boynton Beach police to deliver that led Shihadeh to threaten Dalia Dippolito to be sure she participated in the meeting with the "hit man," who he knew was an undercover police officer. During his deposition, Shihadeh acknowledged feeling pressured by police to be a confidential informant.

Shihadeh declined "20/20's" request for comment, but in a deposition, he denied working on a video with the Dippolitos and denied ever pressuring Dalia Dippolito. Michael Dippolito denied ever knowing Shihadeh and denied the two of them were making a video with his then-wife.

Dalia Dippolito's new defense attorneys are claiming that the Boynton Beach police violated her rights in a number of ways and that detectives were focused on making good TV for "COPS." They have filed a motion to have the case dismissed.

“There’s no question about it, that the Boynton Beach Police Department was dead set on manufacturing a crime here,” Claypool said.

The police department denies any wrongdoing and says it was only trying to gather evidence.

In a statement to "20/20," the Boynton Beach Police Department said: "We will not be speaking to the specifics of this case due to the fact that the Palm Beach County State Attorney's Office is prosecuting Ms. Dippolito. We are not in the business of trying cases in the court of public opinion. Our burden rests in the establishment of evidence, not in crafty impression management techniques. Whether it's the legendary Twinkie defense or Ms. Dippolito's original reality TV story, defense attorneys have a long history of attempting to establish reasonable doubt. That's what they are hired to do. It's a benchmark of our criminal justice system. We have confidence in the quality of the case presented, and the ability of our state attorney to successfully prosecute Ms. Dippolito a second time."

As she waits for her new trial, Dalia Dippolito stays at her mother's home and has to wear an ankle bracelet. She said she is on medication for depression and anxiety.

“I'm going through depression,” she told “20/20.” “I'm in intensive therapy now just trying to cope with everything that's happened, and the unknown, because it's hard.”

Dippolito never testified at her first trial, but she said she is prepared to take the stand now. She said she considers herself to be “understanding, sweet and compassionate,” and says she is not the cold-blooded killer prosecutors made her out to be.

“The person they're describing, it's definitely not me,” she said. “I married him [Michael Dippolito] because I loved him. Now I wish I never would have met him.”

Editor’s note: An original version of this story incorrectly stated that the reality TV show “COPS” was embedded with the Boynton Beach Police Department throughout their investigation of Dalia Dippolito. According to the department, “COPS” began filming the case with the department on the day of her arrest, which was August 5, 2009.

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