By Terrence McCoy
By Allie Conti
By Terrence McCoy
By Scott Fishman
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Allie Conti
By New Times Staff
By Ryan Pfeffer
On July 31, a man called the Boynton Beach Police Department to report that a friend named "Delilah" was planning to kill her husband.
The informant had once known Delilah well. She was lithe and slender, with long dark hair, green eyes, and a cosmetically enhanced figure. The two had met a decade earlier, when she walked into one of his unnamed stores in Boca Raton. She introduced herself, and they began a relationship of sorts.
"I don't want to say dating," the man explained, "but more intimate friends."
Over the years, though, they grew apart. He got married and broke things off. He heard Delilah got engaged to a "rich architect" and moved to California. "It was all about money," the man said. "She got a $40,000 engagement ring from him, she got a brand-new Mercedes from him, then left him."
When that relationship ended, Delilah headed back to Florida and married a new man. She soon reconnected with her old fling, though, and lately she had been asking for some strange favors.
"She asked if I knew someone who can kill her husband for her," the man said.
According to the informant, Delilah was after her new husband's money. She'd already "lost" $200,000 of his and was willing to go to extreme measures to get more of his dough. When she went so far as to ask the informant to buy a gun for her, he became alarmed. "I decided to come to you guys," the man told the police, "because she's really dead serious on getting this done."
Immediately, Boynton Beach Police began working with the informant to set up an elaborate sting operation. They taped meetings between Delilah — real name: Dalia Dippolito — and her old friend. They styled an undercover cop to pose as a hit man. They recorded her saying she was "5,000 percent sure" she wanted her husband dead.
Within days, the police arrested Mrs. Dippolito in spectacular fashion. They set up a fake crime scene. They let Mrs. Dippolito believe the murder had been committed, having an officer break the news of her husband's death. When she sobbed dramatically, her antics were caught by a video crew. Only later, in a tiny interrogation room at the police station, would officers reveal that her husband was alive.
The case seemed like a slam-dunk for the cops: Gold-digging, plastic-surgery-loving wife tries to murder hubby! But deeper investigation would uncover a more complex story. Dalia might be ruthless and conniving, but her husband has a troubling rap sheet of his own. Their marriage was built on a rickety foundation of lies, jilted lovers, and bizarre financial deals. Both would suffer the consequences when their high-rolling romance imploded.
Dalia Mohammed was born in New York, the eldest of three children. The family moved to Boynton Beach when Dalia was 13. Her Egyptian father waited tables at the Ritz-Carlton, while her Peruvian mother worked as a manager for an HMO. Dalia attended Santaluces High School in Lantana.
The year Dalia turned 18, her mom filed for divorce, alleging in court documents that her dad had a girlfriend on the side. Her dad eventually moved to Maine, while Randa Mohammed and the children remained in Boynton. By November 2000, according to court documents, Dalia was attending college and working.
From then on, the public picture of Dalia's life gets murky.
Eventually, according to the informant/friend, Dalia moved to California with her architect fiancé and worked in a massage or tanning parlor. The friend said she "took his ring, took some money, divorced him." It's unclear how long she stayed out west.
By 2006, she was back in Florida long enough to get a real estate sales license. When the informant spent time with her, he noticed a change in her persona. She spoke with the polite yet petulant tone of a woman accustomed to getting her way. She seemed well aware of her body's power — the slender waist, generous chest, full lips. For years, she had watched men bend to her will. When she said please to a man, she expected to get what she wanted.
"She has like a two-faced personality," her friend said in a police interview. "You could be sitting in the car talking to her or out to dinner talking to her, and all of a sudden she'll just, like, have a tantrum. Like, if she doesn't have it her way, then it's the highway."
Michael Dippolito came from a different world. He was Italian, from Philadelphia, and 12 years older than Dalia. Four tattoos decorated his meticulously well-muscled arms and legs: a woman, an Italian flag, Jesus Christ, and a black panther.
When he was 22, in 1993, he was arrested in Philadelphia for possession and intent to deliver drugs (court records don't specify what kind). He skipped his first hearing in the case, and the judge issued a bench warrant for his arrest. That warrant remains active; there's no record that the Philadelphia Police ever tracked him down.
By 1997, he had moved to Boca Raton and landed a job at a temp agency. One night that August, he was arrested on North Dixie Highway for offering an undercover Broward County sheriff's deputy $15 for sex. He pleaded guilty and was released.
Around that time, Dippolito began a relationship with a woman named Karen Tanne. She was a recent South Florida transplant from Long Island who had a soft spot for Charlie Brown comics and worked for a nonprofit that advocated for children and families. In July 1998, Tanne gave birth to a son. A recent DNA test backs up her claim that Michael Dippolito is the father.
Soon after Tanne's son was born, Dippolito moved on to another woman: Maria Luongo, a smiling, brown-eyed girl from a traditional Italian family who would stand by him for years to come.
Meanwhile, Dippolito was introduced to the world of commodities fraud. He worked in a local boiler room, where he and fellow telemarketers would recruit people to invest in the foreign currency market and then steal the customers' cash. The Rubbo family, a Broward County clan with ties to the Bonanno crime family, was running this scam in Palm Beach and Broward counties. Investors lost $11.7 million before the scam was busted in 2002, according to a federal indictment.
It's not clear from court files which boiler room Dippolito worked in. Broward Sheriff's Office Det. John Calabro says it "may have" been the Rubbos'. But after learning the trade, Dippolito soon branched out to run his own scheme.
In 2001, he set up two companies — M.A.D. Financial and C.T.U. Inc. — and began cold-calling strangers as far away as Ohio, Illinois, and California, persuading them to invest in foreign currency. From an apartment in Boca, he'd extol the virtues of quick profits to be gleaned from the fluctuating exchange rates between the dollar and the Japanese yen, the euro, and the British pound. The plan was "risk-free," he told customers.
Sitting at home in Northfield Center, Ohio, investor George Nemeth thought the business opportunity sounded tempting and "glamorous." If he invested $20,000, he could earn a profit of $7,000 or $8,000 in a few months, Nemeth remembers a salesman from Dippolito's company telling him.
Already, Nemeth could picture the boat he would buy with the profits. "I almost sent more [money]," he says.
Nemeth was one of at least a dozen customers who wired money to Dippolito's corporate bank account in Jacksonville — some sent $16,000; one man sent $25,000. But soon, Nemeth realized he had been scammed. His phone calls to M.A.D. Financial were never returned. And of course, the profits never materialized.
Instead, Dippolito kept the cash. He splurged on hotel rooms, clothes, and jewelry. He spent more than $6,000 on "pay-by-the-minute chatrooms," including psychic and phone sex hot lines, according to a probable cause affidavit.
Nemeth called the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission and discovered officials there were already aware of Dippolito's scam. In 2002, the commission filed a federal lawsuit alleging Dippolito's companies collected a total of more than $200,000 in about 11 months. (He was the sole officer and director of both companies.)
Calabro arrested Dippolito in March 2002.Dippolito pleaded guilty to charges of organized fraud, grand theft, and unlicensed telemarketing and was sentenced to two years in state prison — although he served only seven months, thanks to the time he'd already spent in jail awaiting trial. He was forced to make monthly restitution payments to his victims and remains on probation until 2032.
Those close to Dippolito believed he turned over a new leaf when he got out of prison. In July 2007, he launched an online marketing company called Mad Media Inc. and used a portion of his income to pay back his victims, according to Calabro. The detective thought Dippolito had been "doing what he needed to do to stay clean." Fraud victim Nemeth says he has received steady restitution checks for years — but they are for just $8 to $10 each month.
Luongo kept dating Dippolito despite his criminal activities. Even today, she says the man she fell for was a sweet, caring boyfriend who would never intentionally hurt someone. "There was nothing that he wouldn't do for me," says Maria, now 29. They married in 2007, after knowing each other for nine years. "He was a great husband." One Christmas, her parents' TV set was broken, so Dippolito bought them a new flat-screen to replace it, she remembers. "He always made sure other people were happy before he was happy."
Maria was aware of Dippolito's troubles with the law — she even stayed with him while he was in prison — but declines to comment about that part of his past. Clearly, however, there were some things she didn't know about her husband. Such as how exactly he made a living, for instance. According to court papers, he claimed to earn $87,000 a year from his marketing business. But it's difficult to tell how legitimate the business is. Mad Media Inc.'s website, madmedia1.com, has a rudimentary design with a picture of a bulldog at the top. "We are an outsourced media planning, buying, and strategy organization with proven experience in interactive direct marketing," the site says. "Our proprietary technology-based solutions enable real-time delivery of high-volume, targeted, qualified, and cost-effective leads as well as campaign optimization and management."
"I don't know anything about any of that," Maria Dippolito says.
Another thing Maria didn't know was how Michael entertained himself when she left town. Michael Dippolito told police that in October 2008, while she was on a trip, he called an escort to his Boca office.
The woman who arrived at his door was Dalia Mohammed.
Dippolito began dating Dalia immediately, and although she was mainly living in California, she soon moved back to Florida and into his house in Boca. "Pretty much we were on a fast-track relationship, getting along great," he said in a police interview.
This new love interest came as a shock to his wife. Maria Dippolito says she returned from her out-of-town trip and Michael announced, "I'm moving out. I want a divorce."
At first, he didn't mention Dalia. Then one day, Maria saw him buying flowers. She confronted him, and he admitted he was seeing another woman. "He just said he met her online; she lived in a different state," Maria says. "The story was a little sketchy."
By the end of January 2009, Maria and Michael were divorced, and he married Dalia five days later at the Palm Beach County courthouse in Delray Beach. They moved into a $225,000 townhouse he'd just bought — paid in full, no mortgage — in Boynton Beach. Dalia had recently begun working at the Aventura-based Beachfront Realty, and she sold him the house.
Soon, the newlyweds settled into a routine. Dalia spent her days at tanning and hair salons, shopping in Bal Harbour, and working out at LA Fitness. Michael ran his marketing business from their house, which was equipped with security cameras at the front and back doors. They also had two dogs, Bella and Linguine. Every morning, Dalia would wake in time to give Michael a steroid injection before he went to the gym at 5:30 a.m., she told her friend the informant. Michael was a former crack addict and a recovering alcoholic, she said. His routines were important to keep him on track.
But the informant told police Dalia was irritated by Michael's routines. "She can't stand that and she basically wants to get rid of him."
Once, while Michael was recovering from liposuction to get rid of his love handles, Dalia texted a friend to say she was sitting at home, bored and resentful. "That's pretty gay," her friend said of Michael's surgery.
"I know," Dalia replied. "He's so superficial, and the sad thing is someone like him will never be happy."
"I think his psycho trailer trash mom is coming today," she added. "She can never just be here for two or three hrs like normal people. She stays for ten hr." Then: "Last week she was with us for five hrs and no intention of leaving. It sucked. I finally said something to him and she still wouldn't get the hint. She left pissy."
While tensions between the newlyweds mounted, their financial activities became increasingly bizarre.
Two weeks into their marriage, Michael began transferring $100,000 to Dalia, he told police. Bank records confirm he wrote at least 12 separate checks from his Mad Media account to Dalia's maiden name. He wrote the $6,000 and $7,000 checks at random times — every few days in February and March, sometimes twice a day.
In interviews with police, Michael said he gave the money to Dalia because he wanted to pay off his entire $191,000 restitution in one lump sum so he could get off probation. Dalia offered to pay half the amount. He thought that when he gave her $100,000, she would add it to $91,000 of her own and pay the entire debt. But she kept the money instead.
Michael's explanation of how that happened is convoluted, and the numbers he gave the police didn't add up correctly. He said that in total, "I lost $240,000 with this girl. That's unexplainable money."
He also signed the deed of his $225,000 townhouse over to Dalia, telling the police "his wife was to be the sole owner of his home until he would clear his financial restitution to his victims."
Based on the money trail, one might guess Michael was transferring cash and assets to his wife so he would look like a pauper and not have to pay restitution. Indeed, that's the spin Dalia put on the story when she told her informant friend about it.
She said Michael had all the money he needed to pay off his obligation but he was hiding it in a Cayman Islands bank account. "She wanted to basically wipe him out of that money," the informant told police. When cops searched Dalia's safe-deposit box, they found a document that seemed to confirm an account in her name at Cayman National Bank.
According to the Broward State Attorney's Office, Michael Dippolito's probation officer, David Banks, is supposed to monitor Dippolito's monthly income to ensure he's paying his restitution. Neither he, a spokesman for the Florida Department of Corrections, nor Michael Dippolito's lawyers would comment for this story.
But finance wasn't the only strange aspect of the Dippolito marriage.
Last March, Michael and Dalia were vacationing at the Ritz-Carlton in Manalapan (Dalia picked up the $1,172 tab). When they checked out of the hotel, they found police officers standing by Michael's Tahoe. The cops told Dippolito they had received an anonymous tip that he was dealing drugs. They searched the car and didn't find anything, so they let him go.
About two weeks later, the same thing happened while he and Dalia were at CityPlace in West Palm Beach. Police officers said they'd gotten a tip that there were drugs under the spare tire of his Chevy Tahoe. Sure enough, they found a Newport cigarette box that contained two small baggies of cocaine. But once again, Dippolito avoided arrest. He told the officers he'd been set up before and that he suspected his ex-wife was behind the ploy.
At 8 a.m. April 2, Boynton Beach Police were called to the Dippolito house when a neighbor complained that a "dealer" and his girlfriend were having a domestic dispute. When cops knocked, the Dippolitos admitted they had been arguing about money.
Another day, Michael was on the way to the gym when he found a note on his truck that seemed straight out of a cheesy Hollywood thriller. "Bring $40,000 9:30 am. Back to this parking space and put it under the car parked behind you," the note said. "Do not tell anyone. Especially your wife. I will tell you all that has happen [sic] to you, is happening to you and will happen on Friday. Tell no one — come alone." It was signed, "Someone who will help you."
By the time Michael Dippolito contacted Boynton Beach Police about the note in late May, his patience was beginning to fray. The officer who interviewed him wrote that Dippolito "appeared overly paranoid, expressing extreme concern for his welfare and safety. Michael, in his own words stated, 'I wish whoever this is, will just break my car windows, or even just shoot me and get it over with already.' "
That's when Dippolito revealed his past ties to the Bonanno crime family. He told the officer that before he was arrested for running the investment scam, "he was involved with two subjects from Boynton Beach who were recently arrested and linked to organized crime," according to a police report. Brothers Pasquale and Joseph Rubbo, still on probation for their previous boiler room scam, had been indicted on federal racketeering charges six days earlier.
Trusting that information, the Boynton Beach Police officer concluded it must be Michael's old mob friends who were trying to spook him.
Of course, that conclusion didn't account for one wild card: Dalia.
According to the informant, it became increasingly difficult for Dalia to conceal from Michael that she had stolen his money. In desperation, the informant said, she told Michael she was pregnant so that her husband would forgive her. But that ruse couldn't last. Her way of solving the problem was to get rid of him by sending him to prison or having him killed so her mistakes would be forgotten and she could take his house, his cars, and his cash.
Once, at a clothing store in Riviera Beach, she pulled her friend the informant aside and asked if he knew a hit man who could kill her husband. "I know you're short on money," he remembered her telling him. "I got you if you could do this for me."
When he yelled back, "I don't want nothing to do with it," some men outside the store overheard. They had been hitting on Dalia when she walked in, scantily clad and perfectly coifed. She was so alluring that the men offered to commit the murder themselves. The informant said they drove off with her to survey her townhouse but soon came back to report it was an impossible task. "Yo, that girl's crazy," the informant remembered them saying. "The guy's got security cameras all over the house."
After that attempt failed, Dalia began asking people to help her plant drugs in Michael's car. She told the informant about the incident in Manalapan, when she stashed drugs in her husband's gas tank but the police didn't find them.
Continued the informant: "The next day, she called me saying, 'Oh, he flipped out. I tried to do it without killing him.' " She said Michael had found the drugs. His mother and friends suggested Dalia was to blame, but Michael defended her.
Later, Michael would tell police: "Everybody around me knows about all this crazy shit, and they all knew something was wrong."
Dalia was undeterred. At one point, the informant said, she claimed to have researched odorless antifreeze online and laced Michael's tea with it. But he took a sip and spat it out.
As her desperation to kill her husband increased, Dalia also carried on an affair with an unidentified man from California. Cell phone records reveal she was texting the man — named Mike — July 24, telling him she loved him and arranging to meet him at a Marriott somewhere in South Florida.
"Im excited to see you," Mike wrote. "Wish we were on the couch together, sure babe i love u..."
"Love u so much wish we were in the city lol," Dalia wrote back.
Six days later, the informant met Dalia at a gas station and left her in the car while he went inside to buy cigarettes. When he returned, he noticed Dalia had grabbed his gun out of the glove compartment and put it in her purse. That was the last straw. "I told her to get the hell out of the car," the informant said.
The next day, she offered him $5,000 or $6,000 to buy a gun for her. He refused. Giving up on him, Dalia insisted she'd simply hire someone else to do it. So he went to the police.
Listening to this story, the Boynton Beach detectives asked the informant if Michael was violent. Was it possible Dalia was afraid and considering self-defense?
"She claims he's violent," the informant said. But "from the people that I know that know him — I don't know him personally — but from the business he was in, say that he's a really nice guy. I mean, he forgave her for $200,000."
He added that Dalia in the past had described Michael as kind. "He's the nicest, sweetest nerd, but she can't stand him."
So the police put a hidden video camera in the informant's car and arranged for him to meet Dalia at a Mobil station in Boynton Beach. With the camera rolling, the informant friend asked her one more time if it was worth killing her husband for his money.
"It's not even over the fucking money," said an exasperated yet still sweet-tongued Dalia, dressed in a tank top and a baseball cap. "Like, you don't fucking get it... It's about, like, his fucking friends and all that other shit."
She explained Michael's friends were linked to organized crime, and "he knows a lot of people. Me going and fucking filing for divorce — he'll come after my fucking ass. Period."
The informant sounded miserable. The camera showed only the back of his shaved head, but his voice was thick and annoyed, as if he wanted nothing more than to flee the car. But first he needed to make sure Dalia was serious about hiring the hit man.
"OK, so after he kills him or whatever... [Michael's] mom is not gonna be suspicious of you?" the informant asked.
"Why me?" Dalia replied. "Do you know what fucking killing somebody is? Killing somebody? Come on. Nobody's gonna be able to point a finger at me."
She was certain everyone would be convinced Michael's mob friends were to blame, because she would accuse them. "I'm gonna throw all their fucking names in, and I don't care," she said.
She promised her friend that after the hit was done, they would "never talk about it again." Then she handed him $1,200 in cash for the hit man he was to hire.
On August 3, an undercover cop posing as the hit man drove to meet Dalia in a CVS parking lot. Once again, the conversation was videotaped. Dalia had her hair in a ponytail, which she kept smoothing with one hand. She looked young, slightly nervous, but still flirtatious.
"I'm a lot tougher than what I look," she told the cop. "I know you're thinking, Oh what a cute little girl," she laughed. "But I'm not."
"You are," the cop told her. "You're extremely beautiful."
"Thank you," Dalia said, batting her eyelashes. "But I just want to make sure everything's gonna get taken care of."
They negotiated a fee for the murder, and she discussed her husband's schedule the day he was to be shot. "Between now and when it's done, you're not gonna have an opportunity to change your mind," he warned her.
"There's no changing," she assured him. "I'm positive, like 5,000 percent sure."
On August 5, the stage was set. Following the plan she had made with the supposed hit man, Dalia left for the gym at 6 a.m. The police then drove to her house and set up a fake crime scene. They blocked off the entrance with yellow tape, propped open the door, and parked a squad car out front with its lights flashing ominously.
Meanwhile, they informed Michael Dippolito of his wife's plot and whisked him off to safety at police headquarters.
An officer called Dalia at the gym and told her to return home immediately. As if on cue, she collapsed, sobbing, in an officer's arms at the news of Michael's death. The police filmed the scene, and the footage made national news.
Overnight, Michael Dippolito became a celebrity victim. Dressed in a button-down shirt and flanked by his lawyers, Dippolito, his voice halting, told Matt Lauer on the Today Show how stunned he was by his wife's actions. "It hasn't sunk in. I don't really get what really happened," he said.
A few months later, police released the video of their interview with Dalia. In the cramped, dark interrogation room, they first let her believe they were actually investigating her husband's death. She told them she suspected a mob associate named Pasquale. She even whimpered a little for the camera and pushed her baseball cap down over her eyes to hide her tears.
But the police called her bluff. After allowing her to ramble on for a while, Sgt. Paul Sheridan left the room for a minute and then returned with a grave tone in his voice.
"The game's over with," he said. "OK, there's no more games with you and I. I want to know if you know this guy."
Sheridan opened the door and allowed a man in handcuffs to shuffle in. It was the hit man. Dalia swore she'd never seen him before.
Sheridan stared at her for a minute.
"You're going to jail today for solicitation of murder," he said. "You're under arrest. That's an undercover police officer. We filmed everything that you did."
Dalia leaned forward in shock. "I didn't do anything," she said, repeating it over and over as she began to cry.
"Your husband is well and alive," Sheridan told her.
"I'd like to see my husband, please," she said.
"Nope, he doesn't want to see you."
Another officer came in to handcuff Dalia as someone else brought Michael Dippolito to the door of the interrogation room. Dalia did her best to look shocked. "Oh my God," she said. "Come here, please. Come here."
"I can't," he said as the officers led him away.
As the detectives began their interrogation in earnest, Dalia refused to answer most of the questions. She pouted, whined, and kept asking to call her mother. "I didn't do anything," she said. "I just want to go home."
Even when cornered, she seemed confident that her charm would win them over. "You guys are treating me like a criminal, and I'm not," she said. "I'm not. I'm not that kind of person. I'm just not."
They played the recording of her saying she was "5,000 percent sure." She listened quietly.
"Is that your voice on the tape? Yes or no?" one detective asked her.
Dalia was silent.
"I didn't exchange money with anyone," she told them. "I never wanted anyone dead."
A detective then showed her pictures of her meeting with the undercover cop. "What more proof do you need?" he asked.
Dalia later pleaded not guilty to solicitation to commit murder and today remains under house arrest at her mother's home in Boynton Beach. Michael Dippolito is free and rebuilding his life but is now being sued for child support by his ex, Karen Tanne. His finances are being scrutinized by both a private lawyer in that case as well as an assistant state attorney who is re-examining his restitution obligations. A spokesperson for the Philadelphia Police Department said there was no way to verify whether anyone there is still looking for Dippolito.
With neither Michael nor Dalia looking like model citizens, each of their lawyers has requested a gag order in the murder-for-hire case. So, after months of public fascination with South Florida's strangest newlyweds, it seems details of their bizarre affair will remain a mystery — at least until the case goes to trial. Dalia's lawyer, Michael Salnick, wrote in an email to New Times: "Anything said about this case or those involved will only be said in court."