Investigators have been digging into the case of Raymond Roth, the Long Island man who went missing during a swim off the coast of New York on July 28—and was soon after pulled over for speeding in South Carolina. Now his wife has suggested that he may have faked his own death with his son’s help. If it’s true, Roth isn’t the only person who’s tried to disappear from his own existence. The Daily Beast runs down a list of eight fakers who tried staging an untimely demise.
Raymond Roth increased his life insurance and then went for a swim off the coast of Jones Beach. Local law enforcement launched a massive search when he didn’t return to shore, but he was presumed dead. His wife started planning his funeral, but then came across emails he’d been sending his son with instructions for how to get in touch after he left town. Police found him just a few days later in South Carolina, driving 90 miles per hour down the highway. Roth hasn’t been charged with any crimes.
Faced with financial ruin and potential prosecution for fraud, Indiana financier Marcus Schrenker hopped into a plane and ditched it somewhere over Alabama in January 2009. Schrenker sent out an S.O.S. message and safely parachuted to the ground, where he had a motorcycle waiting. He hid out at a campsite for several days before authorities found him and charged him with intentionally destroying an airplane and faking a distress call. He wound up with a 50-month prison sentence.
In March 2002 former British teacher John Darwin paddled his red canoe out to sea and disappeared. But it all turned out to be a scheme between Darwin and his wife, and the couple went so far as to keep it from their sons, who believed their dad was dead for half a decade. Darwin fled to Panama and lived under an assumed name, while his wife Anne collected hundreds of thousands of pounds in life insurance. Five years after his “accident,” Darwin walked into a London police station claiming he had amnesia. Both Darwins were tried for fraud and received jail time.
Ken Kesey is probably best known for his book, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. But the acclaimed author also tried to fake his death to get out of a drug charge. Arrested in 1965 for marijuana possession, Kesey convinced his friends to leave his truck by the side of the road in California along with a suicide note. He took off for Mexico, but returned eight months later and was promptly arrested.
Nobody likes those pesky fees cellphone companies make you pay to break your contract. But Corey Taylor, a consultant from Chicago, took his distaste for them to a whole new level in 2007. Taylor was so unhappy with Verizon Wireless’s service that he created a fake death certificate and had a friend fax it to the company. “I thought, ‘What have I got to lose, besides a cellphone I despise?'” he told The Washington Post. But Verizon caught on and made him cough up the money anyway.
It’s not uncommon for a man to run away with his mistress, but John Stonehouse decided he had to stage his death in 1974 for the plan to work. Stonehouse, a member of Britain’s Parliament, pretended to drown off the coast of Miami Beach, leaving his clothes in the sand to make it seem like he died while swimming. When he was later found in Australia, he had assumed the identity of Joseph Markham, a constituent’s deceased husband. He returned to England, was found guilty of 18 counts of fraud, deception, and theft, and served three years in prison.
Gandaruban Subramaniam’s car-rental business folded in 1987, leaving him with a mountain of debt and creditors on his back. Two years later, the Singaporean faked his death by having his brother and wife tell others he was killed by Tamil rebels. Subramaniam fled overseas, and the family collected about $246,000 in insurance money. The ruse lasted for 20 years until Subramaniam tried to reenter Singapore under a fake name. He eventually pled guilty to insurance fraud.
Samuel Israel was a hedge-fund manager who was facing 20 years for swindling $450 million from investors after his company, the Bayou Group, went bust. But he didn’t want to go to jail. So he parked his SUV on the shoulder of the Bear Mountain Bridge on the Hudson River, left the keys in the car, and wrote the word “suicide is painless” on the hood. He then fled in an RV to a campground in Massachusetts where he spent several weeks before his mother convinced him to turn himself in.