Dalia Dippolito's Attorney: "She's the Most Misunderstood Client I've Ever Represented"

Dalia Dippolito's Attorney: "She's the Most Misunderstood Client I've Ever Represented"
Courtesy Boynton Beach Police Department

Dalia Dippolito claims she was acting when she asked an undercover Boynton Beach police officer, acting as a hitman, to kill her husband, Michael. Six years later, she says she didn't actually want to hire someone to kill her rich husband, but that it was all part of an acting project to land the Dippolitos a reality TV show.

Dippolito's attorneys told the court the same thing in 2011. But by then, Dippolito had gained national notoriety after video of her asking a hitman to kill her husband went viral on YouTube — it  was later featured in an episode of Cops. The jury didn't buy the excuse and found Dippolito guilty of solicitation of murder, sentencing her to 20 years in prison.  

Last year the verdict was overturned on appeal because the jury pool was tainted by all the media attention. Now Dippolito has hired two high-profile TV attorneys, Brian Claypool and Mark Eiglarsh. They're trying to get the case dismissed and avoid a retrial. 

"I know for a fact Michael and Dalia would look at people on reality TV," Eiglarsh tells New Times. "They would say, 'They make all this money doing nothing; our lives are more interesting than theirs'."

That's for sure.

This time Dippolito took the stand in her own defense, telling her story to the court for the first time.  She even cried on the stand. No one seemed to buy it, especially not the prosecutor who replayed footage of her hiring a hitman.

"Dalia is extremely misunderstood," Eiglarsh says after court. "She is one of the most misunderstood clients I've ever represented."

Dalia Mohammed was born in New York, the eldest of three children. Her father was Egyptian and her mother was Peruvian. When Dalia was 13, her family moved to Boynton Beach. Her father waited tables at the Ritz-Carlton, and her 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 cheated. Her dad moved to Maine, while her mom and siblings remained in Boynton. By November 2000, Dalia was attending college and working.

It was around this time Dalia started taking acting classes, she told the court Wednesday. 

Her ex-husband and celebrity victim Michael Dippolito is no saint. When he was 22, in 1993, he was arrested in Philadelphia for possession and intent to deliver drugs. Then in 1997, he was arrested on North Dix­ie Highway for offering an undercover Broward County sheriff's deputy $15 for sex.

Soon after he began a relationship with a woman named Karen Tanne, who later had a son. A DNA test confirms that Dippolito is the father. But by the time his son was born, Dippolito had moved on to another Italian woman, Maria Luongo. 

Michael Dippolito 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.

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. Dippolito was arrested in March 2002. He 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.

Maria Luongo stayed by his side. Then in October 2008 Michael Dippolito began seeing an escort in Boca Raton on the side. It was Dalia. And in 2009 Michael divorced Maria and married Dalia five days later. They moved into a townhouse in Boynton Beach. Michael worked from home on an online marketing company he created. Dalia would spend her days tanning and going to the gym. 

Two weeks into their marriage, Michael deposited $100,000 to Dalia's account and then started making monthly $6,000 payments to her. He claimed he was putting it aside to pay his restitution in full. Dalia later said he was trying to duck out of paying restitution and that he kept an account in the Cayman Islands to hide the funds. (Police found proof that Dalia did have a Cayman Islands account.)

The finances are weird but it only gets stranger. In March 2009, police questioned Michael because 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.

Then, two weeks later, 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, Michael avoided arrest. He told the officers he'd been set up before and that he suspected his ex-wife was behind the ploy.

In April 2009, 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."

When Michael Dippolito went to police, everyone assumed it had something to do with Michael's past ties to organized crime.

According to Dalia's former lover-turned-friend-turned-confidential informant, Mohamed Shihadeh, it was all Dalia. She had stolen money from Michael and it was getting harder to hide it. At first, she wanted to send him to prison. When that didn't work, Shihadeh says, Dalia resorted to murder. Shihadeh told police Dalia offered to pay him to do it, then wanted him to buy her a gun, and then finally she hired a hit man. Shihadeh went to police and told them about the plot.

An undercover cop acted as Dalia's hit man, and it was all captured on camera and later aired on TV. Cameras were rolling when police told Dalia her husband was dead. They show her falling into an officer's arms. 

According to Dalia, the murder-for-hire ploy was all an act to land the Dippolitos a reality TV show. She claims Michael was in on it, and that's why he got liposuction. She says Shihadeh was in on it, too, and that he pressured Dalia to keep with it. 

During her first trial, a TV expert explained would-be contestants often do outlandish things "to become famous." A digital forensics expert testified that Dalia had done searches on her computer months earlier for how to get on reality TV.

Dalia maintains that everything was just a ploy to get famous. There's no evidence such as scripts to back up her claim that it was all an acting project. But the problem with the current defense is that it's  even harder to pin when the act started and when it was over. And the even bigger question: Is she still acting now? 

She revealed in court Wednesday that she took acting classes after graduating high school and that her dream was to be famous. Mission accomplished.


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