Hidden Cameras and Reality TV: Inside Strange Case of Wife's Alleged Murder-for-Hire Plot to Kill Husband
Dalia Dippolito is on house arrest awaiting a new trial for the alleged plot.
— -- Dalia Dippolito became one of the most notorious celebrities in Boynton Beach, Florida, after being accused of trying to have her now ex-husband killed in an alleged murder-for-hire plot.
Boynton Beach police recorded Dippolito in 2009 allegedly discussing hiring a hit man with a friend, and then meeting with an undercover police officer who she thought was that hit man, to allegedly discuss killing her then-husband, Michael Dippolito.
Police cameras caught Dalia Dippolito's emotional reaction when she arrived at a fake crime scene police had set up at her home and police told her that her husband had been slain. Police say her tears were all an act. Dalia Dippolito would later deny that she ever wanted her husband killed.
In 2011, a Florida jury found Dalia Dippolito guilty of solicitation of murder. But an appeals court judge ruled that the jury was improperly selected and tossed out the conviction.
Dalia Dippolito is now on house arrest awaiting her new trial in May, but sat down for an exclusive interview with ABC News' "20/20" to share what she says is her side of the story.
See who the key figures are below:
Dalia Dippolito was living in South Florida when she said she began dating Michael Dippolito. He was more than a decade older and was married to someone else at the time.
"I was told that he was going through the divorce proceedings," Dalia Dippolito told ABC News' "20/20," speaking for the first time in a pre-trial interview.
As part of the conditions for agreeing to the pre-trial interview, there were certain questions "20/20" was prohibited from asking her.
A few months after they met, Michael Dippolito got divorced and married Dalia Dippolito five days after it was finalized. As newlyweds, Dalia Dippolito said they lived together in his condo and spent nights together at home watching and dreaming of being on reality TV.
Just six months into their marriage, Boynton Beach police say Dalia Dippolito asked her friend Mohamed Shihadeh to help her find a hit man to kill her husband. Prosecutors would later say it was part of a secret plan to get Michael Dippolito's money and condo, and get him out of the way so she could be with another man.
Police placed hidden cameras that recorded Dalia Dippolito talking with Shihadeh about having her husband killed, and later recorded her conversation with an undercover police officer named Widy Jean, who was posing as a hit man.
Police set up an elaborate fake crime scene and recorded Dalia's reaction as they told her Michael Dippolito was dead. Dalia Dippolito was then taken into an interrogation room, where police recorded her reaction as they revealed to her that not only was her husband still alive, but that they had taped everything, and the man she thought was a hit man was really an undercover Boynton Beach police officer.
Dalia Dippolito was arrested on charges of solicitation to commit first-degree murder and went to trial in April 2011. Her defense attorney argued that Dalia and Michael Dippolito had teamed up with Shihadeh to create a video, which they hoped would get them noticed and be a launching pad to a reality-TV career.
Prosecutor Elizabeth Parker argued that Dalia Dippolito was after her husband's money and his $250,000 condo, and she wanted him out of the way so she could be with another man. Parker also argued Dalia Dippolito knew her husband was a paroled felon and first planned to plant drugs on him and then call the police to have him arrested, before her plan escalated to murder to get rid of Michael Dippolito.
The jury found Dalia Dippolito guilty and a judge, calling the plot "pure evil," sentenced her to 20 years in prison.
But a Florida appeals court judge ruled that the jury wasn't selected properly, tossed out the conviction and ordered a new trial, which is set to begin in May 2016.
Dalia Dippolito is now under house arrest at her mother's home wearing an ankle bracelet. She said she's on medication for depression and anxiety.
Elizabeth Parker went on to write a book about the case and is now an attorney for Michael Dippolito.
Michael Dippolito was a workout fanatic and self-employed marketer when he first met Dalia Dippolito.
Years prior, he had been in prison for fraud after scamming investors out of almost $200,000 and he was on probation until 2032, but Dalia Dippolito claims he never told her he was a convicted felon. Michael Dippolito denies that, saying she knew about his past and she knew he was trying not to violate his probation.
Police said they pulled him over multiple times because they received anonymous tips that he was dealing drugs. Michael Dippolito believes Dalia Dippolito was behind all the anonymous tips.
Even after learning that his then-wife had allegedly tried to put a hit on him, Michael Dippolito says he felt some pity when she was convicted in 2011.
"For a second, I -- look, I felt a little bad for her," Michael Dippolito said. "Nobody wants to go to jail. I know that for sure."
Michael Dippolito still lives in the condo they once shared just a few miles from where she now lives under house arrest.
Mohamed Shihadeh, a part-time actor who claims to have worked for the television show "Burn Notice," went to the Boynton Beach police department to say he had a friend who was trying to hire a hit man to kill her husband.
"She asked if I knew someone who could kill her husband for her. I said, basically, 'No I don't,'" Shihadeh told detectives in a tape recorded interview at the Boynton Beach police department. "She's really dead serious on getting this done."
He told police that Dalia Dippolito was his one-time lover. But while he was able to describe her looks, he was unable to tell police her full name and address.
To get proof of the allegations, police made Shihadeh a confidential informant and installed a hidden camera in his car to record his conversation with Dalia Dippolito about hiring a hit man.
They met at a gas station, and the cameras were rolling as Shihadeh is heard telling Dalia Dippolito he had found a hit man who wanted $1,200 to buy a gun. On the video, Dalia Dippolito is seen counting out the cash to give to him, and shortly afterward, she gave him a photo of her husband.
"Wipe my ******* prints off those ******* pictures," she is heard telling Shihadeh on the undercover tape.
"We were shocked ... how easily she talked about ... getting her husband killed," Det. Alex Moreno said.
Boynton Beach Police Department
The Boynton Beach police department received their first tip about Dalia Dippolito’s alleged plot from her friend Mohamed Shihadeh.
Reality TV show "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 Dalia Dippolito arrived, police notified her that her husband was dead and recorded her reaction.
"In the midst of all of that tremors and shaking of her body, there wasn't any real tears coming out of her eyes," Sgt. Frank Ranzie said.
In an unusual move, the Boynton Beach police released the video of the fake crime scene on YouTube the same day. The tape went viral.
At the station, police recorded Dalia Dippolito as they asked her questions, but then revealed to her that they have her on tape, that her husband is alive, and that the "hit man" she met was actually an undercover officer.
But Dalia Dippolito's new defense attorneys are claiming that the Boynton Beach police violated Dalia Dippolito's 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. The police department denies any wrongdoing and says it was only trying to gather evidence for prosecutors.
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."
Widy Jean is an undercover police officer with the Boynton Beach police department in the investigation into Dalia Dippolito's alleged murder-for-hire plot.
Jean posed as a hit man offering his services to Dalia Dippolito, while a hidden camera recorded their conversations.
In an attempt to ensure that Dalia Dippolito was willing to pay him to kill her husband, Jean asked her whether she wanted to change her mind.
On the undercover tape, Dalia Dippolito is heard responding, "I'm positive, like 5,000 percent sure. But, no, like, when I say I'm going to do something, I'm going to do it."
"I was a little shocked because I didn't think she was going to be that open," Jean told "20/20" of Dalia Dippolito's response.
During her interrogation, Dalia Dippolito denied knowing Jean when police brought him into the room.
Mark Eiglarsh and Brian Claypool
Dalia Dippolito's current lawyers Mark Eiglarsh and Brian Claypool claim Shihadeh, Dalia and Michael Dippolito wanted to mimic an episode of "Burn Notice" with their version of a hit man video in order to become famous.
According to Claypool, Shihadeh figured it would be a 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 Dalia and Michael Dippolito and denied ever pressuring Dalia Dippolito. Michael Dippolito also denied that he and Shihadeh were making a video with Dalia Dippolito, and denies ever knowing Shihadeh.
But Claypool claimed phone records show that there were 500 calls between Dalia Dippolito and Shihadeh in the days leading up to her arrest.
Eiglarsh and Claypool are now preparing for Dalia Dippolito's new trial scheduled for May 2016.
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.