Last summer, Angela Diaz repeatedly called cops in Anaheim, California, and said strangers were turning up at her condo to rape her.
The 32-year-old newlywed told police someone was impersonating her in replies to “rape fantasy” ads on Craigslist. She believed the culprit was none other than her husband’s ex-girlfriend, authorities say.
But Anaheim detectives would later learn that nothing was as it seemed.
Soon after Diaz’s frantic 911 calls, police arrested the ex-girlfriend, Michelle Hadley. The 30-year-old grad student spent 88 days in a county jail before a more detailed investigation exonerated her.
Now authorities say Diaz made the whole thing up. As part of her fiendish scheme, Diaz allegedly sent herself threatening emails in Hadley’s name—replete with fire and brimstone and references to Adam and Eve—in an attempt to frame her.
The bogus emails are only part of Diaz’s web of lies, police say.
In January of this year, the Orange County district attorney announced Diaz had also allegedly faked a pregnancy, cervical cancer, and doctor’s notes. She impersonated an ex-boyfriend over email, too, to bolster her frame-up, prosecutors say.
On Wednesday, Diaz appeared in court for a preliminary hearing that will determine if, and on what charges, she will go to trial. The proceedings are expected to last for several more days and include a slew of witnesses.
Dressed in dark-blue prison duds, Diaz bore an easy smile while seated next to her attorneys. Her apparent composure didn’t crack when the state’s first witness, Anaheim Police Detective Michael Cunha, was called to the stand.
Cunha testified that when he met Diaz, she was with her U.S. Marshal hubby, Ian, and he didn’t consider either of them suspects. “She informed me that she had basically been stalked by her husband’s ex-fiancée,” Cunha said. “She said her name was Michelle Hadley.” (Court records show that last fall, Ian Diaz filed for a marriage annulment from Angela Diaz on the basis of fraud. It’s unclear if Angela fought his claims.)
According to Cunha, Angela Diaz claimed “she had been followed to work by Michelle Hadley’s friends.” The veteran detective—who specializes in internet crimes involving children and sexual offenses—said Ian Diaz claimed to have a tumultuous relationship with Hadley and attempted to get a restraining order against her. His request was denied.
Meanwhile, the officer said that Angela Diaz informed him that “she had received a barrage of emails from unknown email address” that made allegations about Ian Diaz, including that he was not monogamous. “They said, excuse my language, that he was the scum of the earth,” Cunha testified.
Angela Diaz told Cunha that the emails became more threatening, warning that she’d be raped and killed. Those messages were also attached with images of dead fetuses and dead women, Cunha said.
“She believed that Michelle had lost her mind,” Cunha testified of Angela Diaz. “She basically thought Michelle was crazy.”
Yet police cuffed Diaz in January, when Orange County prosecutors announced the purported victim was now their main suspect.
Diaz is charged with 10 felonies including kidnapping, perjury, grand theft, and false imprisonment, as well as 22 counts of misdemeanor falsely reporting a crime to Anaheim police. She has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
If convicted, Diaz could spend 12 years and eight months in state prison, and 11 years in a county jail, Orange County prosecutors said.
In the meantime, Hadley, who was falsely accused of impersonating and stalking Diaz, has filed a lawsuit seeking damages. Hadley names the City of Anaheim in the suit, saying police failed to properly investigate her case.
The complaint also lists Angela Diaz and Ian Diaz, who had once waged a legal battle to get Hadley off the title of the condominium the two ex-lovebirds owned together. Hadley says that without Ian and Angela Diaz’s statements to police, she wouldn’t have been falsely imprisoned.
Earlier this year, Dateline NBC covered the convoluted story and interviewed Daily Beast reporter Kate Briquelet for her deeper look into Hadley’s case.
Before the episode aired, Hadley told The Daily Beast that if her parents hadn’t rallied for a new police probe, she might still be behind bars.
“I had days where I thought, ‘OK, I might go to prison for life for something I didn’t do,’” said Hadley, who was an MBA student when she was thrown in jail. “You want to give up, because you’re so tired of fighting.”
Hadley’s attorney, Michael Guisti, who watched the proceedings Wednesday, said Hadley has had difficulty applying for jobs because of Diaz’s alleged ruse. “She is trying to put her life back together. It is hard. She was exonerated but people still Google her and think she did it,” Guisti told The Daily Beast.
Months before Angela Diaz contacted cops, her husband was embroiled in a dispute with Hadley over the fate of their condo.
Cunha testified that Ian Diaz was previously engaged to Hadley, whom he’d met online and had dated for two years. “He told me it started off fast,” Cunha said. “He told me he told her he loved her in the first two dates.”
The couple would get a Yorkie named Chewy and eventually bought their residence in May 2015. “They went in together on the loan,” Cunha testified, while Michelle provided a lump sum of cash for the downpayment.
But their romance fell apart by the fall. “They were fighting. They were arguing. He said he kicked her out of the condominium and they split up,” the cop testified.
This is when Ian Diaz claimed Hadley began rattling off disturbing emails to him, threatening to burn down their condo with the dog inside, Cunha said. “He told me that she was imbalanced and he did not trust her,” Cunha said of Ian Diaz.
“I have been patient and my patience is at an end,” one email to Ian Diaz began, before suggesting he was guilty of the seven deadly sins and “most of all, pride.” Hadley signed off on the email with: “So let it be written, so let it be done.”
Another email described the condo as “that which does not belong to you but belongs to the Holy Trinity.”
When Cunha asked Hadley about the emails, Hadley allegedly admitted to sending them to her ex-boyfriend. “She said she had been basically fed up. She said she was in a fugue state when she wrote them,” Cunha testified. “In layman’s terms, something wasn’t firing right inside her head.”
The following spring, Angela was Ian Diaz’s new flame and said she received ominous emails of her own. She told Cunha she believed Hadley was behind the biblical missives, as they mirrored those Hadley sent Ian Diaz over their condo.
“For example, she mentioned daughters of God. She mentioned getting her powers back. She mentioned Lilith,” Cunha testified.
For her part, Hadley denied sending emails to Angela Diaz. She said they’d never even met.
The “Rape Fantasy” Ads
The Craigslist ad was posted under “casual encounters” with the heading “RAPE FANTASY - m4w (OC).” Below was a violent photo of a partially clothed woman, with a man restraining her mouth and head with his hands.
“I am looking for women who have fantasies about being raped/forced to perform. I’ve done this before with couple of ex-girlfriends and found it very intense and exciting. We would agree on the limits before meeting and we could meet at a safe location like a hotel,” the poster says, before adding that he’s a sane, “clean cut professional.”
A search warrant affidavit, filed in Angela Diaz’s native Arizona, revealed more on the disturbing ad and the replies at the center of her case.
On June 13, 2016, someone replied to the Craigslist post saying, “I am have [sic] been dying to have a rape fantasy occur….watched while walking my dang [sic], following me to the door and forcing me into my condo.”
“I am 30, tall, gorgeous and ready,” the person continued before providing the address of Angela Diaz’s condo in Anaheim. “I have a Yorkie I walk every night, say 8 pm? Come find me.”
In the affidavit, Cunha, the Anaheim investigator, said he believed “the replier to the advertisement was pretending to be Angela.”
Six days later, Cunha received a phone call from Angela Diaz, who warned another man was traveling to her house from San Diego, believing that she had contacted him through a “rape fantasy” advertisement.
The officer then called the man and left a message saying the response to his ad was fraudulent. No one showed up that night, the affidavit says.
The man eventually wrote to Angela’s husband, Ian, the document states. The man “told him he was sorry and was thinking the message was legitimate,” the affidavit alleges. “Ian also discovered the responder to the advertisement had sent photos of Angela” obtained from her Instagram.
On Wednesday, Detective Cunha testified that Ian Diaz began to intervene in his investigation by responding to posters of the Craigslist ads. The U.S. Marshal had hoped to set up the “rape fantasy” seekers and question them himself, Cunha said.
On June 21, another man, who was landing at Los Angeles International Airport, allegedly made contact with Angela Diaz through a “rape fantasy” ad. Again, Cunha called the man and warned him whatever messages he might have received were bogus.
Angela Diaz dialed 911 on June 24 to report an attempted rape. The cop, responding to the call, found Diaz in the back alley behind her residence with bruises to her right temple. But the suspect was never found or seen on security footage.
Anaheim police arrested Hadley the next morning. She was released on bail before 11 a.m., but Diaz received another mysterious email within an hour—supposedly from an address connected to Michelle—warning she’d be punished and raped.
Still, Diaz’s story appeared to unravel in September 2016, when police obtained search warrants for IP addresses connected to the phony emails.
One IP address was used during the activation of an email address that borrowed Hadley’s name. Investigators discovered that IP address was linked to the Phoenix home of Diaz’s father.
Another fake email address, this time using the name of one of Angela Diaz’s ex-boyfriends was linked to Ian Diaz’s Anaheim condo.
“I believe based off the evidence I obtained Angela was responsible for creating the fake email accounts and sending the messages to herself to create the illusion Michelle Hadley was responsible for the crimes,” Cunha wrote in the affidavit.
Last September, the U.S. Marshal made leaving Angela Diaz official.
Ian Diaz’s petition for nullity of marriage, based on fraud, came just six months after their February 2016 nuptials.
According to court papers, Ian Diaz and Angela Maria Diaz met on Jan. 2, 2016, and immediately entered a committed relationship. On Jan. 29, Ian proposed to Angela and she accepted.
The happy couple vacationed to Boise, Idaho, together two weeks later, and Angela told her fiancé and his parents she was pregnant. When they got back to California, they decided Angela should move into Ian’s home.
On Feb. 19, Ian “arrived home from work and found [Angela] had moved all of her belongings into” his condo. The lovebirds discussed the pregnancy and Angela’s lack of health insurance and decided to quickly tie the knot.
The couple had a courthouse wedding just three days after Angela Diaz—who then went by Angela Connell—moved into his condo.
But their whirlwind romance would quickly begin to decay. Ian, a deputy criminal investigator since 2010, claimed he unearthed “multiple lies and inconsistencies about [her] relationship status” over the coming months.
When they met, Angela was driving a black Volkswagen Passat, which she claimed to be borrowing from a male friend. A week before she moved in, Angela was driving a silver Hyundai Santa Fe, which she said she was renting because her 2009 Ford Focus was in the repair shop. Angela later admitted her Ford wasn’t at the dealership; it had been repossessed, court papers allege.
Around the same time, Ian says he discovered his wife had credit cards, bank statements, and more belonging to the male friend. When asked about these items, Angela Diaz allegedly said she and the friend received each other’s mail.
On Feb. 5, 2016, the man’s sister sent a message to Ian on Facebook, warning him that Angela was unfaithful. Because the message was stored in the “filtered” inbox, Ian claims he didn’t read it until that September.
“My brother has been with Angi for a while. Angi has been lying to him about you and telling him that their relationship wasn’t working but wouldn’t be honest about the fact that she was cheating on him with you,” the woman allegedly wrote.
When confronted, Angela allegedly denied dating this male friend. She later said, according to court papers, that she wasn’t happy in the relationship with the man and wanted to see other people but he didn’t agree to it.
In April 2016, Angela had a miscarriage, the petition states. “It is believed that due to timing of the sexual relations between [Ian] and [Angela], the child may have been the offspring of another man,” court papers allege.
Had Ian known that his future wife was in another committed relationship, he would have dumped her immediately, the petition claims.
In early May 2016, Angela allegedly said she was pregnant again. The next month, she presented Ian and both of their families and friends with sonograms showing fraternal twins. The sonogram printouts had Angela Diaz’s name, a doctor’s name, the date of the ultrasound and name of the hospital.
Yet through July and August, even as Angela allegedly showed no physical signs of pregnancy, she complained of cramps, back pain, and nausea, court papers claim. She shopped for baby clothes, furniture, and other items to boot.
Ian said he would later discover, through Google Images, that Angela’s sonograms were fake and that ones appearing identical to hers were sold on Etsy.com for $7.50 apiece. The prank ultrasounds, printed on Kodak photo paper, were customizable with names and other information, court papers say.
When her hubby confronted her, Angela was adamant the sonograms were real. That night, on Sept. 9, Ian gave Angela a lift to an Irvine hotel that her mother reserved and paid for, the petition states.
The next morning, Ian discovered multiple used pregnancy tests, which appeared positive, in two boxes under the bathroom sink. The tests, however, “were noticeably altered by the use of pens that were also in the boxes,” court papers allege.
The federal lawman likewise accused Angela of forging her work history. In August 2016, she claimed to start a job as an Orange County court clerk and provided “elaborate stories about events, peoples, and court hearings,” documents say.
Angela asked her husband to cash a paper check from the county because she didn’t have a bank account. Ian says he deposited the check into his account on Sept. 6 and it bounced two days later because the account was closed.
According to Ian Diaz, his former wife admitted that she’d never worked for Orange County and that she used a computer program to design and print a false paystub and paycheck with an account and routing number.
Had Ian Diaz known about “what appears to be lying at the pathological level,” he never would have married her, the petition says.
The preliminary hearing for Angela Diaz is expected to resume Thursday morning, with continued testimony from Detective Cunha.