A man from Boston admitted Wednesday in federal court to fraudulently claiming his brother accidentally drowned in China three years after he actually died of a heart attack in order to submit more than $5 million in life insurance claims, according to court documents.
Kellerman Jason Zheng, 33, pleaded guilty to mail and wire fraud in a scheme that began in December 2016, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
Beginning in December of 2016 and continuing through March 20, 2018, Zheng took out at least 24 life insurance policies in his brother’s name with limits in excess of $11.5 million, the U.S. the Attorney’s Office said.
Zheng claimed his brother died in an accidental drowning while visiting China in August of 2018, authorities said.
Investigators began looking into Zheng last January, which included a trip to China, where Zheng’s brother died, a court document said. Investigators found witnesses in China that said Zheng’s brother died two to three years earlier of a sudden heart attack suffered on Tomb Sweeping Day, a traditional Chinese festival where families visit the tombs of their ancestors.
Investigators also located a doctor that said he signed a death certificate for the brother in August 2018 after relatives described the means of death, court documents said.
Further investigation found that a man, with the same name and age of Zheng’s brother, was cremated in April 2015.
Looking at flight records, authorities found Zheng’s brother flew from Boston to Beijing in April of 2015, however, no records showed his return, court records said.
After his death in 2015, authorities say Zheng used bank accounts in his brother’s name and renewed his brother’s Massachusetts license to make it appear he was still alive.
Later, Zheng obtained a false Chinese death certificate for his brother indicating that his brother had died in August 2018, and used it to submit more than $5 million in life insurance claims, the U.S. Attorney said.
Court documents show Zheng met with an undercover agent posing as an insurance agent and admitted his brother died prior to the policies.
The charges of mail and wire fraud each carry a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000. Sentencing is scheduled for June 18.
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