SANTA ANA, California — The wife of a California U.S. Marshal has been charged with a sinister plot to frame her husband’s ex-fiancee for unleashing a terrifying campaign of harassment that included soliciting a dangerous rape fantasy, authorities said.
The ex, Michelle Hadley, was charged last summer with 10 felony counts in the nefarious scheme and had faced up to life in prison. But in a bizarre twist Monday, prosecutors admitted they had gotten it wrong and dropped the case against her. Instead, they charged Angela Diaz, the initial victim, with concocting the whole thing.
“Ms. Hadley is an innocent victim of a diabolical scheme,” Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said. He said investigators were not sure what Diaz’s motive was.
The two women were brought together by having both been involved with the same man — who prosecutors identified only as John Doe, but the Los Angeles Times reported was a U.S. Marshal.
Authorities say they do not believe he was involved in the scheme.
Hadley had been engaged to him, but the two broke it off in August 2015. In January the following year, the man met Diaz on a dating website and the two were married and living together a month later. In May, Diaz said she was pregnant with twins.
In June, Diaz went to police in Anaheim, California to report that she had been getting harassing emails from Hadley, threatening to have her raped. The most chilling accusation she made was that Hadley had posted online solicitations in Diaz’s name inviting men to engage with her in”rape fantasies.” The ads included her photo and address and inviting men to have sex with her even if she screamed or resisted.
Bolstering the claim, police intercepted two men near Diaz’s house who believed they were responding to a real ad. In June, Diaz reported fending off a man in her garage, who had torn her blouse in an attempt to rape her.
That day, police arrested Hadley. When she was released the next day on bail, Diaz reported that the harassment continued. Eventually, Hadley was held on $1 million bail and spent several months behind bars.
During the investigation, however, police discovered that Diaz appeared to have committed various acts of fraud, including forging checks forgery, faking cervical cancer, pretending to be an attorney, forging doctor’s notes, faking a pregnancy, and impersonating another one of her husband’s ex-girlfriends over email.
They also increasingly began to believe Hadley’s story that she was innocent.
What had thrown investigators off the scent was that Diaz had used proxy servers to make it look like the email messages were coming from somewhere else. It took months, but eventually police unravelled the case when they were able to track the messages back to Diaz’s home and the home of her father.
Diaz, 31, was arrested last week in Phoenix. For Hadley, finally being exonerated was a huge relief.
“This has been a huge nightmare for me — probably the most traumatic experience of my life,” Hadley, 30, said outside the courthouse on Monday as the case against her was dropped.