While his wife, Dalia, was on trial for plotting to have him killed, Michael Dippolito was also in the hot seat. Dalia's defense attorney grilled him for hours on the witness stand, questioning why Michael borrowed money from Dalia to pay off the $191,000 in restitution he owed to victims of a foreign currency investment scam he ran a decade ago.
Before attempting to pay the restitution, Michael bought a $225,000 townhouse in Boynton Beach -- paid for with cash, no mortgage -- and a $48,000 Porsche, according to a financial affidavit he filed. He also admitted in court that he kept $160,000 squirreled away in a safe deposit box. So why did he write checks totaling $100,000 to his wife, then borrow $91,000 from her to pay his restitution? Why didn't he just pay what he owed?
In court, defense attorney Michael Salnick suggested that Michael Dippolito was laundering money. But Assistant State Attorney Elizabeth Parker, the prosecutor in the case, says the explanation was simpler than that. Dippolito was advised that his restitution money needed to come from a "clean" source. Since he had been convicted of fraud, any money he offered to the court might be considered dirty. The judge or prosecutor might wonder if the stack of cash came from legitimate sources (and who could have blamed them?).
So Dalia offered to be the clean source, Parker says. That's why Michael transferred money to her.
Dalia, of course, promptly spent the money, so Michael lost his restitution funds. And since she was arrested in 2009 for plotting to have Michael killed, he says he's fallen into financial ruin.
His online marketing business has dried up, he testified. In a financial affidavit he filled out last October, he said he was earning $500 a week working at Rocky's Pizza in Sunrise. Meanwhile, he said he owes $400,000 to the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission, $191,000 in restitution, and $342,000 in unpaid taxes. He remains on probation for organized fraud until 2032.
In December 2009, Broward Assistant State Attorney Kathy Heaven wrote a letter to Michael Dippolito's probation officer, saying Dippolito was "delinquent" in his restitution payments.
Since he has now admitted, in court, that he spent his money on a house and a Porsche instead of paying his victims, can he be punished for burning through that cash?
"I did put him in a very difficult position," concedes Parker, the Palm Beach prosecutor. "He was completely honest."
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Parker said she didn't know what the Broward state attorney might decide to do, but because Dippolito was compelled to testify under subpoena, she says state law prohibits her from using his testimony to punish him. "Nothing the person says in court can be used against him," she says.