[What you need to know to start the day: Get New York Today in your inbox.]
Isaiah Carvalho Jr. woke up on Friday hopeful that his life was about to turn a corner.
Instead, he was told that his estranged wife, a New York City police officer, had been plotting to kill him all winter.
Five months had passed since the 32-year-old had filed for divorce from his wife, Valerie Cincinelli. But after a messy custody battle, the matter appeared almost settled.
It was, but not the way Mr. Carvalho had hoped.
Law enforcement officers informed Mr. Carvalho that Officer Cincinelli, a mother of two and a 12-year veteran of the Police Department, had arranged to hire someone to kill him and her boyfriend’s school-age daughter.
Instead of going through with the scheme, her boyfriend contacted the F.B.I.
The details provided in court documents paint a troubling portrait of a botched murder-for-hire plot ripped from the pages of a true-crime thriller.
The complex scheme hatched by Officer Cincinelli — who once worked in a domestic violence unit in Queens — involved making the death of her husband, who sold fireworks, look like a robbery, and a suggestion that the killer run over the girl with a car near her school, according to court documents.
“It’s your worst nightmare scenario,” said Matthew Weiss, Mr. Carvalho’s lawyer.
Officer Cincinelli, 34, and Mr. Carvalho, a machine operator in Nassau County, married four years ago. In January, he filed for divorce, his lawyer said, and the couple appeared to have reached an agreement that would settle the case before trial.
But by February, according to an affidavit unsealed on Friday, she had asked her boyfriend to hire a hit man to kill Mr. Carvalho, and his own daughter.
On Feb. 18, Officer Cincinelli withdrew $7,000 from a bank in Wantagh, N.Y. That same day, her boyfriend bought five ounces of gold coins worth $6,935 in Massapequa Park, N.Y. — the agreed upon method for paying the killer.
The couple had discussed the plot repeatedly in conversations the boyfriend recorded. According to court documents, Officer Cincinelli had also used social media to track the whereabouts of her boyfriend’s daughter.
Then on May 13, Officer Cincinelli met with her boyfriend to discuss the two hits, unaware that her boyfriend was wearing a wire. She offered a warped explanation of why the murders would not appear linked: They would take place on different days, and the attack at Mr. Carvalho’s workplace in Holtsville, N.Y., would not arouse suspicion “because the murder would take place in ‘the hood’ or ‘the ghetto,’” court records show.
The authorities went to great lengths to convince Officer Cincinelli that the plot had succeeded. Shortly after 10 a.m. on Friday, a Suffolk County detective contacted Officer Cincinelli at her home in Oceanside, N.Y., and told her they were investigating the death of Mr. Carvalho. Less than an hour later, F.B.I. agents sent her a text message, purportedly from the killer, along with a photograph of the supposed murder scene.
Immediately afterward, Officer Cincinelli contacted her boyfriend to align their alibis, and told him to delete their text conversations from his phone.
Later that day, she was taken into custody by the F.B.I. and charged with use of interstate commerce for murder for hire.
Officer Cincinelli joined the Police Department in 2007, according to police officials. She worked in the 106th Precinct in Queens as a domestic violence officer until 2017, when she was placed on modified duty and reassigned to a unit that monitors surveillance feeds in public housing developments. She was no longer permitted to carry a gun.
According to a detention memo, Officer Cincinelli had been disciplined by the department for sharing confidential information with a boyfriend. It is unclear if that boyfriend is the same source who informed the authorities of the murder plot.
On Friday, Officer Cincinelli was suspended without pay. The Police Department has had no comment about the allegations.
A police official, requested anonymity to discuss a sensitive internal investigation, confirmed that the department’s Internal Affairs Bureau assisted the F.B.I., but said the department was not contacted until the last stages of the case.
Officer Cincinelli has also had a tumultuous romantic history.
According to the detention memo, her first husband had obtained a restraining order against her; she and Mr. Carvalho, her second husband, had restraining orders against one another.
And she had sought a restraining order against her current boyfriend, the memo said.
On Friday, Officer Cincinelli was held without bail.
“There is very strong evidence of guilt of the crimes of trying to get these two individuals murdered,” said Judge Anne Y. Shields of federal court in the Eastern District, citing the “danger” and “serious risk” she posed to her estranged husband and the young girl she is accused of targeting.
William K. Rashbaum contributed reporting.