“He needs his pretty little face bashed in, that’s what I really want.”
That’s what Diane Sylvia told the man she wanted to hire to “permanently disfigure” a Massachusetts resident she claimed had extorted money from her for years, federal prosecutors allege.
“A broken arm would help, too. All he has is, like, his big muscles and his cute face,” she allegedly added during the October meeting in her Linwood, New Jersey office.
Little did she know that the man she would work with on the sinister plot for over a month was actually undercover FBI special agent Daniel Garrabrant, prosecutors said.
The 58-year-old mental health therapist was arrested and charged on Monday with one count of solicitation to commit a crime of violence, authorities announced. If convicted, Sylvia will face a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
In a twist straight out of The Sopranos, the licensed clinical social worker was first introduced to the undercover agent by a patient who was a former member of an “organized criminal gang,” according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Atlantic County.
After learning of her patient’s criminal past, Sylvia told him in September that she needed help killing a Massachusetts man who had been “bilking her for money for years,” the complaint said.
The former gangster alerted law enforcement, the complaint states, and helped introduce the purported hitman to Sylvia. At that point, Sylvia backed off the idea of killing the victim, telling the undercover she just wanted to “permanently disfigure” him instead, prosecutors allege.
“How ’bout we break one arm, and just mess up his face, but not with acid?” she allegedly said in their initial meeting, while simultaneously making a slashing motion on her cheek. “Something that makes him not so cute. Something so he can’t do push-ups, so he can’t work out.”
Garrabrant, who secretly recorded the conversation, asked the therapist why she wanted to go through with the illegal operation.
Sylvia 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.”
“It’s just gonna make me feel better,” she added. “It’s the only way I can get him back.”
A few days later, Sylvia bought a prepaid cell phone to communicate with the purported hitman and gave him her target’s license-plate number, according to the complaint. In a “brief phone conversation following a text message,” Sylvia told the undercover agent she took out a home equity loan to pay him $5,000 to carry out the assault, prosecutors said.
The agent later told Sylvia to get rid of the prepaid phone after she received confirmation the job had been completed.
“Can I go to the Ocean City bridge and throw it off? Is that good enough?” she allegedly responded.
Sylvia’s profile on Psychology Today states that her therapy practice treats individuals, couples, families, and children who cope with “everyday stress” to create “safe, supportive relationships.”
“Our words and thoughts are powerful and help create the life we desire,” her profile reads. “The most important component of therapy is the relationship between the client and therapist and the client’s willingness to make the decision to change.”
Sylvia’s attorney, Michael Paulhus, did not immediately respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment.