Atlantic County, New Jersey, Therapist Charged With Assault-For-Hire Plot
CAMDEN, N.J. – A Somers Point, New Jersey, woman has been charged with planning the assault of a North Attleboro, Massachusetts, man, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced today.
Diane Sylvia, 58, is charged by criminal complaint with one count of solicitation to commit a crime of violence. She is scheduled to appear today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Karen M. Williams in Camden federal court.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
On Sept. 24, 2018, an individual contacted the FBI. The individual is a former member of an organized criminal gang who sought therapy from Sylvia, a licensed clinical social worker who provides mental health counseling at an office in Linwood, New Jersey. Knowing the patient’s past history with this violent gang, Sylvia allegedly asked the individual to conspire to kill a man who resides in Massachusetts, whom Sylvia said had been bilking her for money over the years. The individual alerted law enforcement to Sylvia’s plans and discontinued therapy with her.
In early October, at the direction of law enforcement officials, the individual introduced Sylvia to a purported hitman, who was in reality an undercover FBI agent. Sylvia told the undercover FBI agent that she did not want the Massachusetts man killed; she wanted him beaten and permanently disfigured. Sylvia said, “He needs his pretty little face bashed in, that’s what I really want.” She later added that “a broken arm would help, too,” explaining that “all he has is, like, his big muscles and his cute face.” She later repeated, “I really just want his face punched in, I swear to God. And his arm broken, that’s what I want.” When the undercover agent asked why Sylvia wanted to do this, she claimed the man “ended up with some stuff on me that he was gonna report me to the licensing board, which means I have no job.” When asked how assaulting this man would help Sylvia, she replied, “It’s just gonna make me feel better” and “it’s the only way I can get him back.”
The undercover agent advised Sylvia to purchase a pre-paid phone to communicate with him about the assault, which she did. Sylvia arranged two more meetings with the undercover FBI agent, all at her office. During one of the meetings, Sylvia clarified how she wanted the intended victim assaulted: “Something that makes him not so cute”—while making a slashing motion on her cheek—“something so he can’t do push-ups, so he can’t work out.” During the last two meetings, Sylvia paid the undercover FBI agent a total of $5,000 cash to carry out the assault plan.
The solicitation of a crime of violence charge carries a statutory maximum of five years in prison and $250,000 fine.
U.S. Craig Carpenito credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Gregory W. Ehrie in Newark, with the investigation leading to the charges. He also thanked the Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office, the Atlantic County Sheriff's Office, the Department of Labor-Office of Inspector General, the N.J. Department of Human Services Police, the N.J. State Police, and the Northfield Police for their roles in the investigation.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Alyson M. Oswald of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Camden.
The charges and allegations in the complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.
Defense counsel: Michael Paulhus Esq., Toms River