Valerie Cincinelli began serving as an NYPD officer around 2007. Picture: Alec Favale/Unsplash
Valerie Cincinelli began serving as an NYPD officer around 2007. Picture: Alec Favale/Unsplash

NYPD cop accused of plotting to have 14-year-old killed out of jealousy

By The Washington Post Time of article published Apr 19, 2021

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Hannah Knowles

The New York police officer was angry at her estranged husband and jealous of her boyfriend's gifts to his 14-year-old daughter, prosecutors said. So she allegedly asked the boyfriend to hire a hit man to kill the husband - and the teenage girl.

At one point, officials said, the veteran member of law enforcement wondered why the boyfriend could not do the deed himself.

"Valerie Cincinelli does what she wants," Assistant US Attorney Catherine Mirabile would tell a judge. "No one controls her. She knows how to get around the system."

But this plan quickly went south, officials said, when the boyfriend revealed the plot to the FBI, allowing investigators to gather taped conversations between him and Cincinelli. In 2019, authorities faked her husband's death to capture her reaction. That's when Cincinelli tried to cover her tracks and the boyfriend's by deleting phone data, authorities alleged. She was charged with obstruction of justice.

Now Cincinelli, 36, has admitted to only that charge as part of a plea deal.

"We are pleased with the ultimate disposition and the government's agreement to dismiss the murder for hire charges," her attorney, James Kousouros, told The Washington Post in an email. "Ms. Cincinelli accepted responsibility for the obstruction and wants nothing more than to return to her family and move on with her life."

He has said that Cincinelli never paid for a hit man and that the money she gave the boyfriend, John DiRubba, was simply a loan to buy gold coins. Kousouros has also argued that the recordings provided by the government do not prove its case.

The Post could not reach DiRubba, and a lawyer who represented him in another case did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

"After all she has done, and all the damage, I still love her and always will," DiRubba, then 54, told the New York Daily News in 2019, recalling their matching "Til Death" tattoos. DiRubba said Cincinelli "needs help."

The Justice Department did not respond to questions about the plea deal. Assistant US. Attorney Anthony Bagnuola said at a Friday court hearing that if the case reached trial, prosecutors would have played audio and video of Cincinelli discussing the plot, the Associated Press reported.

Cincinelli sobbed during the hearing, the AP reported, saying, "I know that what I did was wrong."

Cincinelli began serving as an NYPD officer around 2007, court documents say. Her attorney confirmed that she resigned in March in anticipation of her plea.

The plot was hatched early in 2019, authorities said.

Prosecutors argued previously in court that Cincinelli had financial motivations. She was in the process of divorcing her husband and did not want him getting some of her NYPD pension, they said. And she would complain that DiRubba should be spending money on her and her children rather than on gifts for his daughter from another relationship, prosecutors added, citing texts.

When Cincinelli asked DiRubba - identified in some court documents only as a confidential source - to hire a hit man, DiRubba responded that he knew someone who could do it for $7,000, an FBI agent wrote in an affidavit. In February 2019, records show, Cincinelli withdrew $7,000 from the bank, law enforcement said.

DiRubba told Cincinelli that he would convert the cash to gold coins - the hit man's payment, officials said. Records from a coin dealership confirmed a conversion of about $7,000.

DiRubba went to the authorities in early May 2019, prosecutors said, allowing them to build what they portrayed as a rock-solid case.

In conversations recorded that month at the direction of law enforcement, DiRubba told his girlfriend that the murders would take place that weekend, the FBI said. But he said he was worried about the hit man carrying out both killings around the same time.

Have them kill the daughter first, then the husband a week or month later, Cincinelli suggested, according to the FBI. She said DiRubba shouldn't fret because the murders would take place in different locations.

The husband's death "would not look suspicious" because it would happen in "the hood" in Holtsville, N.Y., the FBI said Cincinelli argued. She pushed back on plans to kill the daughter outside a school, according to law enforcement, swearing and telling her boyfriend to run the girl over.

She discussed the murder methods, the daughter's location and potential alibis, all of which was recorded, law enforcement said. Told that the hit man had found the girl in New Jersey, Cincinelli allegedly replied: "Why wasn't it done if there's no problem?"

Then, on May 17, authorities faked the husband's death as part of their investigation. Police told Cincinelli that they were looking into the matter, and DiRubba showed her a purported photo of a crime scene and a text from the supposed hit man, court documents state.

That's when Cincinelli told her boyfriend that they needed to delete text messages and photos, authorities said.

"The evidence in this case is overwhelming," Mirabile told the judge at Cincinelli's first appearance in court in 2019.

She was held at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn after a judge denied her bond. Her father, a retired NYPD lieutenant, was willing to move in with Cincinelli if she was released, the defense said at the time. But prosecutors scoffed.

"Her family and friends have no control over her," Mirabile argued. "Where were they when she plotted to kill two people?"

Kousouros countered that Cincinelli had been set up. "There is one moment in time that Ms. Cincinelli had the opportunity, in fact was goaded into sealing her fate, in my opinion," he told the judge at one point, according to a transcript.

"She is mocking him," he said in court, referring to DiRubba.

While the FBI said DiRubba had "proven reliable," Kousouros argued that the man was not credible. He said DiRubba had a history of falsely accusing Cincinelli of grave offenses "designed as a cudgel to force her to accept him back into her life."

Speaking to the New York Daily News nearly two years ago, DiRubba posed himself a question about his role as an informant. "Do I regret it?"

"It was very hard for me (because) I love her so much," he said at the time.

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