Isaiah Carvalho Jr. woke up Friday hopeful that his life was about to turn a corner.
Instead, he was told that his estranged wife, a New York City police officer, had been plotting to kill him all winter.
Five months had passed since the 32-year-old had filed for divorce from his wife, Valerie Cincinelli. But after a messy custody battle, the matter appeared almost settled.
It was, but not the way Carvalho had hoped.
Law enforcement officers informed Carvalho that Cincinelli, a mother of two and a 12-year veteran of the Police Department, had arranged to hire someone to kill him and her current boyfriend's school-age daughter.
Instead of going through with the scheme, her boyfriend contacted the FBI.
The details provided in court documents paint a troubling portrait of a botched murder-for-hire plot ripped from the pages of a true-crime thriller.
The complex scheme hatched by Cincinelli — who once worked in a domestic violence unit in Queens — involved making her husband's death seem like a fireworks accident, and a suggestion that the killer run over the girl with a car near her school, according to court documents.
"It's your worst nightmare scenario," said Matthew Weiss, Carvalho's lawyer.
Cincinelli, 34, and Carvalho, a machine operator in Nassau County, married four years ago. In January, he filed for divorce, his lawyer said, and the couple appeared to have reached an agreement that would settle the case before trial.
But by February, according to an affidavit unsealed Friday, she had asked her boyfriend to hire a hit man to kill Carvalho, and his own daughter.
On February 18, Cincinelli withdrew US$7,000 from a bank in Wantagh, New York. That same day, her boyfriend bought 5 ounces of gold coins worth US$6,935 in Massapequa Park, New York — the agreed upon method for paying the killer.
The couple had discussed the plot repeatedly in conversations the boyfriend recorded. According to court documents, Cincinelli also used social media to track the whereabouts of her boyfriend's daughter.
On May 13, Cincinelli met with her boyfriend to discuss the two hits, unaware that her boyfriend was wearing a wire. She offered a warped explanation of why the murders would not appear linked: They would take place on different days, and the attack at Carvalho's workplace in Holtsville would not arouse suspicion "because the murder would take place in 'the hood' or 'the ghetto,'" court records show.
Authorities went to great lengths to convince Cincinelli that the plot had succeeded. Shortly after 10am Friday, a Suffolk County detective contacted Cincinelli at her home in Oceanside and told her they were investigating the death of Carvalho. Less than an hour later, FBI agents sent her a text message, purportedly from the hit man, along with a photograph of the supposed murder scene.
Immediately afterward, Cincinelli contacted her boyfriend to align their alibis, and told him to delete their text conversations from his phone.
Later that day, she was taken into custody by the FBI and charged with use of interstate commerce for murder for hire.
Cincinelli joined the Police Department in 2007, according to police officials. She worked in the 106th Precinct in Queens as a domestic violence officer until 2017, when she was placed on modified duty and reassigned to a unit that monitors surveillance feeds in public housing developments. She was no longer permitted to carry a gun.
According to a detention memo, Cincinelli had been disciplined by the department for sharing confidential information with a boyfriend. It is unclear if that boyfriend is the same one who informed federal authorities of the murder plot.
On Friday, Cincinelli was suspended without pay. The Police Department has had no comment on the allegations.
A police official, who requested anonymity to discuss a sensitive internal investigation, confirmed that the department's Internal Affairs Bureau assisted the FBI in its investigation but said the department was not contacted until the last stages of the case.
Cincinelli has had a tumultuous romantic history.
According to the detention memo, her first husband had obtained a restraining order against her; she and Carvalho, her second husband, each had restraining orders against one another.
And she had sought a restraining order against her current boyfriend, the memo said.
On Friday, Cincinelli was held without bail.
"There is very strong evidence of guilt of the crimes of trying to get these two individuals murdered," said Judge Anne Y. Shields of U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, citing the "danger" and "serious risk" she posed to her estranged husband and the young girl she is accused of targeting.
- William K. Rashbaum contributed reporting