“Can it be like an accident like a robbery gone wrong or something that cannot come back to me like it was a plan,” Lopez wrote in the undated letter, according to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. “You are my angel.”
To say the scheme backfired would be an understatement. Lopez was communicating with an undercover cop, and she now faces additional charges for solicitation to commit murder, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said at a Wednesday news conference. The not-so-covert plot, which police say involved euphemistic talk of “removing a tree,” was all captured in emails and recorded phone calls likely to further complicate Lopez’s divorce and ongoing legal woes.
Over the past two years, Lopez has fallen victim to no fewer than three separate sting operations. The first took place in June 2018, when she was arrested for practicing medicine without a license at an Auburndale, Fla., weight loss clinic named “Drop It Like It’s Hot.” Though she has never been licensed as a registered nurse in the state, Lopez, who described herself as the clinic’s owner on Facebook, posed for photographs in medical scrubs next to framed certificates that referred to her as “Jesse Lopez, R.N.," authorities said at the time.
The clinic advertised heavily on social media, posting photos and videos that showed Lopez, who had only an expired pharmacy technician license, removing patients’ moles and using lasers to perform facials, the Miami Herald reported. When undercover officers dropped by, Lopez allegedly told them that she could give them a “vampire facelift,” a procedure that involves injecting a patient’s own blood and plasma into their face. Several patients told investigators that they had been under the impression that Lopez was a doctor, and that she had prescribed them weight loss drugs.
After reaching a plea deal with prosecutors in January, Lopez was granted probation with one major condition: She wasn’t allowed to possess needles or advertise herself as a nurse.
But in February, less than a year after her first arrest, the Florida Department of Health got a tip that Lopez had set up shop again, opening what she called Jesse’s Gym. The “gym” held six medical exam rooms, Judd said in February. When undercover investigators showed up, posing as potential clients, Lopez allegedly offered them human chorionic gonadotropin, a prescription hormone, as well as meal-replacement powders and syringes.
This time, Lopez was jailed without bail. In August, the sheriff’s office got word that she had been openly telling people in jail that she wanted her husband killed. The two had become estranged — a February news release about Lopez’s arrest referred to a different man as her fiance — and were locked in a dispute, Judd said. She had also become convinced that her husband would be a crucial witness for the pending criminal trial, even though the undercover detectives had plenty of evidence of their own.
“She’s thinking, ‘If my husband were out of the way, that would take care of my witness and my child custody issues,’ ” the sheriff theorized at Wednesday’s news conference. “So she starts talking around in the community about how she wants him murdered.”
The Polk County Sheriff’s Office had yet another undercover deputy get in touch with Lopez. Despite her past experiences, she apparently wasn’t suspicious of the man’s motivations, opening up to him in recorded phone calls where she complained about the bad food and faulty air-conditioning in jail. She blamed her legal problems on her husband, claiming that he hadn’t worked in over 10 years.
“Here I am, because of greed,” Lopez said in one recording released by the sheriff’s office. “Everything is paid off. And he put me here.”
The two also communicated through the jail’s email system, using yard work as a cover for discussing murder, Judd said. Lopez told the undercover detective that she had a tree in her yard that she wanted removed, and offered to pay $2,000 to get the job done. When the undercover detective wrote back, asking for a photo of the tree, Lopez allegedly replied with a picture of her husband.
In the handwritten letter that she sent from jail, Lopez promised that she would have the “bread,” a common slang term for money. She told the deputy when she expected her husband to be at work, and described his car. “If it can be done asap that would be great,” she allegedly wrote. “He is the reason why I’m in here he is the main key witness.”
She signed off: “Burn this letter xoxo.”
On Tuesday night, deputies went to the Polk County Jail and told Lopez the truth: The friendly hit man she had tried to hire is an undercover officer. Judd said that the 40-year-old began laughing, and admitted to sending the letter and placing the phone calls.
“In the Polk County vernacular, this lady’s a nut, but she’s dangerous,” the sheriff said.
In addition to the new charge of solicitation to commit first-degree murder, Lopez is also still awaiting trial on charges including selling drugs without a prescription, practicing medicine without a license, and a probation violation from her February arrest. It wasn’t immediately clear whether she had an attorney.
The status of Lopez’s divorce is also unclear, but Judd said that her estranged husband, Daniel Lopez, had been notified that his wife was plotting to kill him.
“I don’t think he was surprised, because she does some really strange things,” he said.