A mental health counselor in South Jersey admitted to seeking a hitman to attack her ex-boyfriend, but a federal agent stepped in before any violence was carried out, prosecutors say.
Social worker Diane Sylvia, 60, of Somers Point, pleaded guilty Tuesday to soliciting a violent crime with the intent of serious harm to her ex, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office in New Jersey.
Authorities said Sylvia, who had a mental health practice in Linwood, tried to enlist one of her clients in connecting her with a hitman.
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She believed the patient had ties to organized crime, and asked if he could recommend someone who could assault the ex-boyfriend, according to the U.S. Attorney statement.
A criminal complaint says the patient contacted the FBI and agreed to introduce an undercover agent to Sylvia, but would not get involved any further.
The agent, posing as a hitman, began meeting and calling Sylvia, and recording those interactions. The criminal complaint quotes Sylvia asking the agent to punch the ex-boyfriend in the face and break his arm. She said the ex had stolen money and was extorting her.
Believing the agent to be a real hitman, Sylvia asked him not to kill the ex-boyfriend, but to leave him disfigured and break his arm so that he couldn't work out at the gym.
"He needs his pretty little face bashed in, that's what I really want," the criminal complaint quotes Sylvia as saying.
Then the agent suggested using battery acid to scar and damage the target's face. She preferred a different approach.
"How 'bout we break one arm, and just mess up his face, but not with acid?" Sylvia requested. "Something that makes him not so cute...something so he can't do push-ups, so he can't work out."
She told the agent the ex "ended up with some stuff on me that he was gonna report me to the licensing board, which means I have no job."
On Halloween 2018, the agent went to Sylvia's office and paid him $4,000 cash for the fake hit, according to prosecutors. Then she asked if she should discard the prepaid phone she was using to talk to the agent.
"Can I go to the Ocean City bridge and throw it off? Is that good enough?" the criminal complaint quotes her as saying.
After her plea Tuesday before U.S. District Judge Joseph Rodriguez in Camden - held via videoconference - Sylvia will be sentenced Jan. 27, 2021. The maximum penalty she faces is five years in prison and a $125,000 fine.
An attorney for Sylvia was not listed and prosecutors could not provide the name of a defender before our deadline.