Ariel Diaz, a 35-year-old resident of Eastern Place in Palm Coast, was arrested Friday on charges of fabricating evidence, making up a story of being shot at, and making bogus calls to 911 in an alleged attempt to frame another man for supposedly shooting at him and his car. The other man previously dated the woman Diaz is now dating.
In the meantime, Diaz’s claims involved sheriff’s deputies and detectives on two successive days, triggered a search of the woods around Diaz’s house and brought in a unit of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s gunpowder-sniffing dogs–all to investigate the fabricated claims.
Diaz’s scenarios were methodical, one following upon the other. He first contacted law enforcement on Dec. 1 to report to 911 that his girlfriend got a call from her ex. She supposedly told Diaz that her ex was texting her threats that he would “mess up” Diaz’s car. The ex lives in Miami (as Diaz used to). Diaz told the dispatcher that when he went outside to have a look at his silver Mercedes, the car bore the mark of three bullet holes, a large dent, and paint damage. A large brick was sitting next to the vehicle.
Deputies responded. The property was searched. A 9mm shell was recovered from a corner of Diaz’s house. The fragment of a bullet was found inside the frame of the car. Evidence paperwork was filled out. Diaz told deputies he thought his girlfriend’s ex was responsible.
The next day, 911 dispatchers got a call from Diaz’s neighbor, who said she heard what sounded like a gunshot next door. She told the 911 dispatcher that she’d called Diaz first to make sure that he was ok. He was. Three minutes later, Diaz himself calls 911 and claimed that he heard a noise in his backyard, went out to investigate, then saw a muzzle flash and a gunshot in his direction and a human-figured shadow disappear in the woods.
That cased yet another response from law enforcement, a neighborhood search for the suspect and the deployment of a sheriff’s K-9 unit to search for anyone in the woods. Since Diaz had reported a gunshot, the sheriff’s office also called in FWC and its own gunpowder-sniffing dog. The search produced no results. Diaz’s arrest report does not detail what he was doing or thinking as he witnessed the law enforcement agencies on the pointless chase he had allegedly manufactured, or from what more necessary policing the cops had been drawn away to attend to Diaz’s manipulations.
Diaz’s next scene was about the “texts” had had received from the nefarious ex. The texts were from different phone numbers. Diaz told deputies he thought the texts were created from bogus numbers so the ex could disguise himself as he “has been repeatedly harassing and threatening him since he started dating” his girlfriend. The claim was at least partly right: the texts were from bogus numbers. But detectives didn’t know that yet. Rather, they upgraded the severity of Diaz’s situation.
“Due to the nature that [Diaz] was reporting over the last two days it was now believed that [Diaz] was in imminent danger,” they reported.
The investigation continued. a sergeant attempted to ping the ex’s alleged phone number as used in the recent text spree to Diaz. That’s how the sergeant found out the number did not originate from a traditional cell carrier, but was the product of a web-based application called Pinger, which enables free texting. Using various investigative means and a process of elimination, detectives determined that Diaz’s actual phone number was the originating source of what was then “translated” into a different phone number masquerading as the ex, through a remapped IP approach.
Deputies also received notification from Miami law enforcement that the ex was asleep, at home, when they made contact with him, though his home is about four hours’ drive away from Diaz’s, one way. The investigation also matched Diaz’s ammunition to that used in the Dec. 1 incident. All those elements combined to point at Diaz as the originator of what was shaping up as a hoax: he had apparently played the law enforcement officers who’d responded to his calls for help.
Diaz “then admitted to fabricating the entire incident that occurred on December 2, 2020,” his arrest report states. He said he “took his personally owned 9mm handgun, went out onto his back porch and fired a single shot,” then got rid of the shell casing. He “went on to state that he then used the Text Free application on his cell phone and used random created phone numbers to send himself text messages that were fabricated to look like” they originated from the ex. His girlfriend, he said, was aware of the scheme and allegedly assisted him.
“This guy thought he could frame someone and waste taxpayer resources searching for a shooter that didn’t exist,” Sheriff Rick Staly said. “His antics endangered deputies and the public. Now he knows that when you call FCSO and report a crime, we will not stop looking until we find the person responsible–even if that person is you.”
Diaz was booked at the county jail on two third-degree felony charges and two misdemeanors, including False Report of a Crime, False Report to a Law Enforcement Officer, False 911 Calls, and Fabricating Physical Evidence. He was released after posting a $12,000 bond.
“He still denies ever shooting his Mercedes, even though the ammunition used to shoot the Mercedes was the same brand and caliber as his personal ammunition that he normally carries,” his arrest report states. Diaz “believes his girlfriend drove from Miami and shot his vehicle to keep the story going.”
The reason he did all this? “To help his girlfriend who was in a current child custody battle with her ex-boyfriend.” Diaz, himself the father of a young son, told deputies he had since broken up with the woman because the incident “went too far.”
“The total cost of this investigation was estimated to be over $1,100,” the sheriff said, “and we intend to seek reimbursement to recover the tax payer money that Diaz wasted.”
The Sheriff’s Office may have trouble collecting. Two weeks ago Key Jewelers filed suit against Diaz to recover $3,527 he owes.