In the often-lewd world of online forums and classified listings, a horrifying phenomenon exists: men who post advertisements for “rape fantasies,” soliciting women who are willing to engage in sex resembling rape.
Some of these ads appeared on Craigslist last year, and on a number of occasions, in Southern California. A woman identified as Angela Diaz responded. She sent photos of herself and details about her daily routine, telling some of the men that she wanted them to have “forcible sexual intercourse with her, even if she screamed or resisted.”
And the men began showing up at her condo. On one occasion, she called the police to report an attempted rape, and officers arrived to find visible redness on her neck and breasts, her shirt ripped.
She told police she had not, in fact, posted the messages on Craigslist. She told them they were actually posted by someone posing as her, her husband’s ex-girlfriend, Michelle Hadley.
Police investigated and decided she was telling the truth. In July, in a story that made national headlines, Hadley was arrested for posing as Diaz on Craigslist in an attempt to get men to attack her. Hadley, of Ontario, Calif., was charged with multiple felonies, including stalking, criminal threats and attempted forcible rape, facing a life sentence in prison if convicted.
But months later, in a bizarre turn in an already bizarre story, authorities discovered the allegations against Hadley were all false. Diaz had made them up in an effort to frame Hadley, they alleged. Hadley was an “innocent victim of a diabolical scheme” meticulously planned and executed by her ex-fiancée’s new wife, Diaz, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office said Monday.
Prosecutors exonerated Hadley of all charges, and instead charged Diaz with kidnapping, false imprisonment, perjury and other crimes. If convicted, Diaz, 31, of Phoenix faces a maximum sentence of 12 years and eight months in state prison plus 11 years in county jail.
“It’s often said that true life is stranger than fiction,” District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said in a news conference Monday. “The facts of this case make that statement spot on.”
The two women are linked by a man named Ian Diaz, an agent with the U.S. Marshals Service, the Associated Press reported. According to court records, Diaz dated Hadley in Anaheim, Calif., from 2013 to 2015 before marrying Angela Diaz, who is originally from Arizona. Prosecutors said they have no evidence he was involved.
A motive for the alleged scheme was not clear to prosecutors, but Rackauckas speculated it had something to do with a “love triangle” and “wanting to put the dagger into the older relationship,” he said.
All of the evidence had originally pointed at Hadley, including threatening emails seemingly sent to Angela Diaz from Hadley’s verified address, using language and “religious tones” that mirrored previous emails she had sent to her ex-boyfriend. In the emails, Hadley appeared to threaten Diaz’ life and that of her unborn child, sending her links to graphic images of decapitated bodies and aborted fetuses.
Prosecutors say Diaz actually sent the emails to herself, using virtual private networks and third-party servers to make it appear that Hadley had sent them. It took investigators “months of painstaking work to remove the disguise of the IP addresses,” Rackauckas said. Authorities ultimately discovered the messages had actually originated from Diaz’ condo, her cellphone and her father’s home in Arizona.
“That was the real ‘aha’ moment,” said Deputy District Attorney Richard Zimmer.
Along with attempting to frame Hadley, Diaz is accused of faking a pregnancy and cervical cancer, forging doctor’s notes, posing as an attorney and as two of her husband’s ex-girlfriends, and forging a check.
Zimmer said that while Diaz gave the impression of “an upper-middle-class professional,” the investigation revealed her to be “a serial con artist,” the Los Angeles Times reported.
“I’m not afraid to say she duped me,” Zimmer said. “She duped us. It was very sophisticated, well thought-out.”
Diaz was arrested in Phoenix on Friday and is awaiting extradition from Arizona. She faces felony charges including kidnapping; false imprisonment by menace, fraud or deceit; perjury; grand theft; and forgery, and multiple misdemeanor counts of falsely reporting crimes to law enforcement.
Her kidnapping charge was rooted in Diaz’ successful attempt to get Hadley arrested and taken to jail, Rackauckas said.
Hadley was first arrested in June 2016 on the day Diaz reported the attempted rape. She posted bail but was arrested again three weeks later after Diaz reported she continued to receive threatening messages, and after a 17-year-old boy arrived at Diaz’s home in response to the Craigslist ad.
Hadley spent 88 days in jail, held on $1 million bail. As evidence mounted that she was innocent, she was released in October.
Her lawyer, Michael Guisti, said Michelle Hadley was simply a 29-year-old student pursuing a master’s degree in business administration when the accusations were made. To be exonerated by the district attorney was “a huge relief” for her, Guisti said.
During a brief hearing Monday, prosecutors officially dropped the charges against her, and a judge told her she was “free to go.”
Hadley cried, smiled and hugged relatives, the Los Angeles Times reported.
“This has been a huge nightmare for me,” Hadley told reporters, “probably the most traumatic experience of my life.”
Diaz could not be located for comment by the Associated Press.
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