“Hasn’t everybody at one time thought about faking their own death to cash in their life insurance and disappearing?”
My colleague Susan Rupe made that joke after she had included an intriguing item in the news wire section of the magazine. The item relayed the case of a Florida furniture store owner and his wife, who are wending through the court system after they were accused of faking his death to collect $9 million in seven life insurance policies.
(Come to think of it, I assumed Susan was joking. Note to self: If Susan calls in dead, ask her to fax us her death certificate.)
That scam is certainly a blast from the past. Who does that these days? Everything is tracked and filmed now – the grid really doesn’t have much of an off anymore.
Apparently, it is indeed still a thing. Jose Lantigua and Daphne Simpson were arrested last year as she was driving in North Carolina with her undead husband by her side. And no, not undead as in the “your-face-looks-tasty” variety.
He was in Venezuela in 2013 when he was reported dead. But in actual fact, police say, he was hiding out in a shack in North Carolina, which might be an experience not dissimilar to death.
One of the carriers, American General, apparently were a little suspicious of the death claim. For one thing, the doctor who declared him dead never actually saw Lantigua. Not the kind of thing you can just phone in.
And there are other cases, usually having to do with people fleeing cons and debts. A couple of years ago, a former banker and pastor was arrested in a traffic stop in Georgia. He was accused of faking his death after he allegedly stole $21 million in an investment scheme. Definitely not looking out for the client’s best interest.
We get articles on similar cases from our news service on a fairly regular basis. I am always amazed that people can do something like that and live with it. Many don’t, at least not very well. Usually by the time they’re nabbed, they are exhausted from the fear and guilt. I feel uncomfortable with leaving less than a full cup of coffee in the office pot after I poured mine. I don’t know how these folks bear that burden.
Actually, I do have a guess. It’s incrementalism -- the cut corner leading to the questionable action to the petty offense to the major crime. It’s the crossed boundaries and lowered standards.
So, as we head into Labor Day weekend, we can go grateful that we haven’t bound up our lives with such lunacy. (Maybe a little nuttiness, but that’s to be expected.) No matter what our situation, we can look at what we have honestly earned and be proud of that.
So, if I ever call in dead, you can take that to the bank.
Steven A. Morelli is editor-in-chief for InsuranceNewsNet. He has more than 25 years of experience as a reporter and editor for newspapers, magazines and insurance periodicals. He was also vice president of communications for an insurance agents’ association. Steve can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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