In August 2009, former madam Dalia Dippolito conspired with a hit man to arrange her ex-con husband’s murder. Days later, it seemed as if all had gone according to plan. The beautiful, young Dalia came home from her health club to an elaborate crime scene, complete with yellow tape outlining her townhome and police milling about. When Sgt. Frank Ranzie of the Boynton Beach, Florida, police informed her of her husband Michael’s apparent murder, the newlywed Dippolito can be seen on surveillance video collapsing into the cop’s arms, like any loving wife wouldor any wife who was pretending to be loving would. The only thing missing from her performance were actual tears.
... And the only thing missing from the murder scene was an actual murder.
Tipped off by one of Dalia’s lovers, an undercover detective posing as a hit man met with Dalia to plot her husband's murder while his team planned, then staged the murder scenariobrazenly inviting the reality TV show Cops along for the ride. The Cops video went viral, sparking a media frenzy: twisted tales of illicit drugs, secret boyfriends, sex-for-hire, a cuckolded former con man, and the defense’s ludicrous claim that the entire hit had been staged by the intended victim for reality TV fame.
In Poison Candy, case prosecutor Elizabeth Parker teams with bestselling crime writer Mark Ebner take you behind and beyond the courtroom scenes with astonishing never-before-revealed facts, whipsaw plot twists, and exclusive photos and details far too lurid for the trial that led to 20 years in state prison for Dalia Dippolito.
|Publisher:||BenBella Books, Inc.|
|Product dimensions:||6.30(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.30(d)|
About the Author
After receiving her juris doctorate from Loyola University School of Law in 1998, Elizabeth Parker began her career as an assistant state attorney in the Palm Beach County Florida State Attorney’s Office. Since then, she served consecutively as the deputy chief of county court, the chief of the county court division and the domestic violence division. From January of 2009 until August of 2011, she held the position of chief assistant state attorney, in which Parker litigated high-profile cases.
She has appeared on Dateline, Snapped, Sins and Secrets, Nothing Personal, and In Session for her role as the lead prosecutor in the Dalia Dippolito case. Parker opened her own victim advocacy and criminal defense firm in Palm Beach County, Florida, and has appeared on Nancy Grace and In Session as a legal analyst.
Mark Ebner is an award-winning journalist and New York Times bestselling author of titles including Hollywood, Interrupted, Six Degrees of Paris Hilton, and We Have Your Husband.
Read an Excerpt
On the House
Mike Dippolito had had some bumps in life, but he'd done his time and probably other people's, too. At forty, he was looking to work off his failed obligations, burn off some of the bad karma that clung to him like bar-room smoke, and enjoy the tidy life he'd managed to carve out for himself, against all odds. He made more than a decent living — having caught the first wave of small-business Internet marketing and search optimization — and he had a wife who loved him and who had stood by him during his almost two years in custody between county jail and Moore Haven Correctional Institute. That may have been country-club time, but it was still no place for a teddy bear like Mike. Despite the tribal tattoos on his sizable guns, battle scars of a drug binge a decade ago, and a still formidable-looking build from the two hours he obsessively spent at the gym every morning, he was no match for the hard-bitten types you meet on the inside. Mike was what the psych counselors called "credulous": his particular pathology was that he always saw the best in people. It's not a bad way to go through life, except for the red bull's-eye it stencils on your forehead.
As far as I can tell, everything he's claimed in his deposition, police statements, multiple interviews with me, and trial testimony has all checked out. He had to go over many parts of his statements three or four times, just so the seasoned detectives and lawyers in the room could keep the facts straight. Mike is one of those guys who seems to be running on salesman's energy. Not like he's a hustler, but just full of this upbeat enthusiasm that's infectious, like he has to keep one foot on the brake just to stop his excitement from getting away from him. He's got a heart murmur — an irregular heartbeat he's had since birth — and ADD and OCD, he thinks, which lends him a jagged momentum that propels him through life. He's done all kinds of jobs, including line cook at Friday's and making pies at his mom's pizza kitchen, but what he's good at is sales. So after he got out of prison, a friend taught him about online marketing and lead management tools (the same leads that everybody's after in Glengarry Glen Ross, but multiplied by the digital universe), and the tide of money started breaking over the side by the bucketful. He got married to his girlfriend Maria on 7-7-07, leased a Porsche 997, swore an oath of sobriety, and his luck appeared to be limitless.
Then in October 2008, while Maria was away for three weeks, while they were working late, a colleague showed Mike some escort websites where you could order girls off a menu. Mike stayed away from porn like he stayed away from drugs; with his obsessive nature, they amounted to the same thing. Back in his drug days, he would lock himself in a hotel room with enough drugs for the weekend and order up girls one after another, like he was shopping for shoes. More than one of them got a look at his party favors and wanted to stay with him. After a day or so, the escort service would call asking for their girl back.
But here he was late at night, stuck at the office, nothing waiting for him back home, and so he started snooping around online. He saw a girl on Eros.com — skinny, exotic looking, blurry-faced. She said she was visiting from out of town, and he figured what the hell? It was easy, a simple business equation, and $300 later it would be like nothing had ever happened. So he pulled the trigger.
She picked up on the first ring. She had to call back two or three times to get directions. She was twenty-seven, genuinely attractive, and knew how to work a miniskirt — rarer than you might think in her line of work. And at twenty-seven, she was old enough to know her own heart. She used her real name — Dalia Mohammed — and not Breezy Bordeaux or Heavenly Heidi or all the other bad stripper names that come with the territory. It was awkward at first; she acted nervous, which he actually found endearing, but then they talked a little and they started to connect, which put them both at ease. When she left, she told him she'd be in town for a few more days if he wanted to see her again. The next day, he was still thinking about her, but when he called she was out getting her nails done. The day after that, she came by again.
As she was leaving, he said, "I might be down at the beach tomorrow."
She said, "Well, then I might stop by."
But then, instead of turning to leave, she followed him back inside and they went through the motions all over again — this time, on the house. That weekend, she stopped by at ten on a Saturday morning, and they stayed in bed that whole next day. He describes her as coy, innocent, like a schoolgirl, except the sex was mind-blowing. They connected in a way he hadn't before, and that seemed too spontaneous and real to be transactional. Whirlwind was an understatement. When his wife got back, he told her their marriage was over and that he was leaving.
With that much memorable sex there was plenty of time for pillow talk. Dalia told him she had been living in California with a commercial builder, and she had her real estate license. She also ran a massage parlor out of a fake chiropractic clinic in Orange County, she said. The builder, another Mike — last name Stanley — had to put his name on the building lease because she had no credit. He also set up a corporation for her called Eye, Inc., with which she planned to run her escort business through a website called Eyesnatch.com. She had other girls working for her whom she sent out on assignment, through Craigslist and another site called Sugar Daddy — she was like an air traffic controller working her second cell phone — and occasionally she turned tricks, promising a "GFE," or "Girlfriend Experience": sexual adventure plus value-added affection, part of which entailed not watching the clock. She told Mike she used to run a similar massage parlor in South Florida — her grandmother sometimes would go with her to bring food to the girls.
Dalia had grown up in Boynton Beach, right around the corner from Mike, where her mother and sister still lived. She'd attended a Christian school there, and had tried to run away at seventeen, after learning her parents were getting divorced, by catching the first flight from Miami to New York. Her plans were thwarted when the NYPD met her at JFK airport and sent her back to her parents. She'd had some scrapes along the way, too — she was a hustler, but he liked that. She was enterprising and industrious, just like him, and she was open and direct about it. She didn't do drugs, had rarely more than a glass of wine at dinner, so there didn't seem to be a lot of dirt to gather. Maybe he saw himself in her. All he knew was she had her own money, and by telling him all this up front she gave him no reason to think she was a liar.
Dalia told him she needed to go back to California to tie up some loose ends. When she came back to town two weeks later he picked her up at the airport. By then he had rented a house, so she came over and essentially never left. In short order, he met her mom and sister and brother, and they made him feel like he was a part of their family. He took them all out to an Italian restaurant in Delray Beach for Dalia's birthday at the end of October. "Her mom was part of the sale," he says.
Sometime during that meal, he turned around to see a guy in a suit standing behind Dalia's chair holding flowers. Everyone's eyes got real big, but Dalia quickly took him outside to talk to him. When she came back thirty seconds later, he had disappeared. That was Michael Stanley, the builder from California, apparently still carrying a torch for her. She assured Mike that she had dealt with it, and so he forgot all about it. As far as he could tell, his own relationship with her was perfect.
Dalia had breast enhancement surgery in November, but Mike says that he didn't pay for it. For New Year's Eve 2008, they flew to Las Vegas for an Ultimate Fighting Championship event at the MGM Grand. Mike was restricted from traveling outside the tri-county area as a condition of his probation. He filed a formal request with his probation officer and was granted an exception, but he had to include a business meeting during their vacation.
For the first time, in Vegas, things didn't go well between them. At the hotel, Mike got up early to hit the gym like he always did. When he didn't wait for her, Dalia became petulant and spiteful. The weekend never recovered, and it was his first indication that Dalia's insistent cheerfulness and attentiveness might have their limits. This was territory he knew well, and he didn't want to back into another relationship that looked like all play but soon enough became full-time work. He decided that when they got back he was going to end it. Things had gone too fast, and the momentum had taken them too far. Back in Boynton Beach, though, when he tried to have the talk with her, she was incredulous.
"I've never had someone break up with me!" she screamed at him.
"Yeah, well, I guess I'm your first," he shot back.
She appeared indignant and demanded $2,500 to move into her own apartment. Finally, in exasperation, he gave it to her, considering the cost worth it to get her out of his life. Whatever it was, it was over.
Later on that month, they met for coffee to sift through the ashes. This time, Dalia was contrite, apologetic, and disconsolate. Mike is still not certain how it happened — it seemed like everything came crashing down at once — but he blurted out, "Maybe we should just get married."
It wasn't something he'd thought about; he certainly didn't have a ring. He just needed some clarity and some finality, and for a moment the planets aligned so that this made the most sense. Dalia leaped at the prospect. In retrospect, it seemed like their unofficial honeymoon in Vegas demanded a wedding to shore up the symmetry.
On January 28, 2009, Mike's divorce to Maria became final. They had been married exactly one year. The next day, the 29th, he closed on a town-house in Boynton Beach, five minutes away from Dalia's mother, for which he paid $238,000 in cash converted to a cashier's check made out in Dalia's name. (He'd bought his own mother a condo with cash the year before.) Dalia brokered the deal through her real estate license and collected the commission. They spent every spare moment shopping for furnishings, with Dalia taking the lead in establishing the décor.
On February 2, 2009, less than one week after his divorce was finalized, Mike and Dalia were married. Dalia's mother had offered to pay for a proper ceremony, but they went down to the courthouse instead. On their way in, Mike ran into the attorney who had represented him in his divorce.
"Hey, Mike, what are you doing here?" the lawyer asked.
"Funny thing," said Mike.
Mike had grown up a working-class Philly boy (just like Rocky Balboa) in the suburbs of Blue Bell and Norristown. His drug-addicted parents were largely missing in action, so he spent time on the streets where he learned his hustle — slinging drugs, and especially any questionable fast-talking sales con, no matter how hinky. There have been some Dippolitos in organized crime — "Joe Dip" and "Charlie Dip" worked under Jack Dragna in Los Angeles in the fifties and sixties — but the closest Mike ever came as a kid was the new Cadillac or Corvette his father came home with every other weekend. That ended when the family friend who owned a car dealership in Florida wound up doing fifteen years. Mike's father ran numbers, was well liked in the neighborhood, and dodged a lot of bullets that hit his friends, until liver and kidney failure finally caught up with him. Mike called his mom "Sis," and his fondest memories were of dancing with her in her room before she went out for the evening. He'd been raised by his grandparents.
Although he was a gearhead in high school, Mike's dreams of becoming an auto mechanic got pawned for drugs like everything else. He developed a Budweiser habit at ten, sold pot from the ninth grade on, and soon graduated to coke and crack. He became a drug dealer in order to be popular, so he set his price point way below the market average. At those prices, it turned out it was impossible not to fall for his own sales pitch, and soon he was alternating between shooting coke and heroin. A couple of boneheaded stunts (a friend pulled a cap gun on another kid while they were all getting high, and the cops showed up) introduced him to the juvenile justice system, and his best friend today is the counselor that first got him into treatment. Between the ages of fifteen and eighteen, Mike went to rehab more times than he can remember. The last time, he stayed sober five and a half years — until a guy in their crew started eating Percocet and they all went down like a chain reaction, the counselor included. Now addicted to heroin, Mike started selling crack between midnight and 8 a.m. on a street corner in the Dominican part of North Philly, where he was known as White Boy Mike. A couple of times he came up short on the count: once he claimed the Philadelphia cops took him down on a bad bust, hoping he would fail to show up in court so they could bring him in on a bench warrant, and another time a pretty girl ripped him off for a dozen dime bags. The guys he was selling for confronted him with baseball bats and demanded that he bash the girl's head in with a brick, but he couldn't do it, so thirty of them administered the beating of his life. As he was just about to lose consciousness, one of the kids whose family laid claim to the corners reached in and dragged him out of there and drove him to the hospital. It taught him that you can be in the worst place in the world and still run into a decent person.
He called a buddy in Boca Raton, Florida, and three days later he was sitting by the pool at a halfway house, because in Florida, even the halfway houses have swimming pools. There were women for the asking, even if women in halfway houses tend toward the incendiary, and a late-night Denny's run for the Grand Slam breakfast effortlessly snagged him a manager-in-training job. Florida was looking more and more like paradise. When the training part looked like it was taking too long, he got a job with Coca-Cola as a service tech, and found he could fix anything. He could have retired there, except that he thought a minor back injury was going to be his ticket to Workman's Comp Heaven. When that plan didn't work out, he met a girl whose day job was spending her nights at raves selling ecstasy to stoner kids. With a background in sales, Mike was a natural. But getting back in the money also meant getting back in the drugs.
Now strung out on a designer high for spoiled teenagers, something his program buddies would have been appalled by if they'd known, he took a boiler-room job selling gold coins in nearby Broward County. He was good at it, but he hated the work, which was repetitive and mind-numbing. Then somebody steered him to a similar operation that traded in foreign currency. All he had to do was get the fish on the line and then turn them over to somebody else to close. After he got the knack of it, it was like shooting them in a barrel.
"Is this Joe? Joe Smith? Hey, Joe, this is Mike from such-and-such trading. This is a courtesy call, not a sales call. Just want to see if you're actively involved in the markets. No? Okay, great. Like I said, this is not a sales call. What we do is broker in the foreign currency sector of the market. You know, basically the dollar versus the Japanese yen. Are you familiar with that? No? Well, no problem, I'm gonna send you out some information. You still at XYZ address? Great. Okay, just a few suitability questions. This isn't for everybody; I want to make sure it suits you. If you see something you like, can you put in five, ten, twenty thousand? A million?"
Mike was a quick study, and he prided himself on learning the business from the ground up. He fancied himself a broker. Problem was, there wasn't any business. That was the whole business model: ask someone for his money, put it in your pocket. Mike called it a greed investment. His wake-up call came when the Feds raided their room, and they just rolled it up and moved across the street under another name. Once he could see through the illusion, his mojo evaporated. That moment might have come sooner if he hadn't been in the throes of what he calls "a vicious drug addiction." He worked three separate rooms in all, where he had a reputation for softening up the cold calls and getting them in a good mood for the handoff. Some of the rooms were tipped up with organized crime: one had ties to the Bonnano family in New York, and another one was affiliated with Sammy "The Bull" Gravano — after he brought down John Gotti and the Gambino family in New York, and right before he went down on ecstasy charges in Arizona. Mike estimates they made between $13 million and $20 million in about a year and a half; his take was a couple hundred thousand. When the third room blew up, he decided to set up his own shop — right when the Commodity Futures Trading Commission started issuing licenses, which of course he ignored. But by then, it was just a matter of time.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Poison Candy"
Copyright © 2014 Elizabeth Parker and Mark Ebner.
Excerpted by permission of BenBella Books, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 On the House 1
Chapter 2 The Spanish Prisoner 11
Chapter 3 Whatcha Gonna Do 27
Chapter 4 Gun Club 47
Chapter 5 Burn Notice 67
Chapter 6 Inextricably Intertwined 87
Chapter 7 The Three Ps 109
Chapter 8 Reap the Whirlwind 127
Chapter 9 Tacks in the Carpet 159
Chapter 10 Delilah 177
Chapter 11 Dinosaurs 193
Chapter 12 Bane of Society 213
Chapter 13 Chasing Chickens 235
Chapter 14 Tangled Web 245
Chapter 15 Nothing of Nothing Is Nothing 265
About the Authors 299