Everyone is prone to a rough day every now and then. There are times when it seems like there would be nothing better than to disappear and leave all of your responsibilities behind you. It’s a natural feeling, and one that many of us experience multiple times throughout our lives. Of course, most of us don’t indulge these feeling, but it’s present in our lives every once in a while. Sometimes it’s a credit card bill, sometimes it’s a weekend full of responsibilities you’d rather put off; we all just wish we could get off of the grid sometimes.
Killing yourself is a dramatic and devastating move, but it’s one way to escape responsibilities. It’s a permanent solution to a temporary problem, as many people say. These fifteen people wanted all of the benefits of suicide without the drawbacks of, you know, not being able to live anymore. Faking your death is the next best thing, as you can usually benefit from a life insurance policy and get out from under any legal situation you may be avoiding. It takes some dedication and work to pull off a faked death, and I’m sure there are multiple success stories out there; we just don’t hear about them. These fifteen people should have put in a little more work when they were attempting to defraud the government, as they were all caught and made to face the music. Oftentimes, the time they spent in jail for faking their death outweigh any punishment they otherwise would have faced. If you’re thinking about pulling a “Mac and Charlie,” take a few pointers from what these 15 people did wrong.
15. Canoe Conman John Darwin
John Darwin was drowning in debt, so he decided to stage a literal drowning during a canoe trip in 2002. He hid out in his own home with his wife, leaving his two sons to believe that he had died in the canoeing accident. The two collected over £600,000 over the course of their scam, only ending when Darwin wanted to reunite with his sons. He decided to act as though he had amnesia and in 2007, walked into a police station to turn himself in. Police didn’t buy his excuse, and sentenced him and his wife to 6 years in prison, as well as ordering them to pay back all of the money they had collected. The payback ended around half a million pounds, as they were no longer able to pay any more of the money back.
14. Harry Gordon Hiked Past His Brother
Harry Gordon was a rich man, but he wasn’t content with many of the things in his life. When his boat was found off the coast of Sydney, Australia full of empty champagne bottles and no Gordon, the police ruled that he had been killed in an accident. In reality, he took a life boat to shore and set it up so people would think he was dead. He took the name “Rob Motzel,” eventually moved back to New Zealand and fell in love with a woman. The two of them got engaged, but Gordon was on a hike one day when he ran into someone from his past. It was his brother, Michael, who confronted him and got Gordon to admit who he was. Michael wasn’t satisfied with the excuses, and went home to urge Gordon’s first wife to contact police. She eventually did and Gordon was arrested when he returned from his honeymoon. He was sentenced to a year in prison, and says in his memoir that there were multiple reasons to fake his death. He got involved with some shady Ukrainian businessmen, he was in the process of being sued and his marriage was falling apart. Surprisingly, Gordon’s second wife stayed with him through this ordeal.
13. James R. Lang Couldn’t Hack It
James R. Lang had enough of this world, and figured that his family would be better off without him. He didn’t want to end his life; merely act like his life was ended. He knew that his wife was the beneficiary of a $200,000 life insurance policy, so he decided to drive his car into a lake and hope for the best. He pushed his car into a nearby lake and drove his bike to a payphone where he reported the accident. Lang lived on the streets for over a month with no money or identification, but soon learned that his death had been too suspicious for the life insurance agency to pay out any money to his family. It appears Lang had forgotten about the bags of blood he was planning to smear on the car, as they were found intact in his back seat. He soon wandered into a local police station, saying he had amnesia, but soon admitted what he had done. Police didn’t charge him, as no money was paid out, but they advised him to seek help for his troubles.
12. Kimberly Du: Fast and Furious 70: Too Many Speeding Tickets
Kimberly Du of Des Moines, Iowa was wanted in relation to her multiple traffic violations in 2005, but decided that she didn’t want to face the music. The judge received a letter from her mother the day she was supposed to arrive in court, stating that Du had died in an automobile accident. The letter included a clip that appeared to be an obituary in the local newspaper. The charges were dropped, but the driving habits of Du clearly needed intervention. She was pulled over once again less than a year later, and when police ran her driving record they saw that she was supposed to be dead. They followed up with her mother, who stated that she had never signed or sent any letter to the court. The letter was proven to be forged, and Du was sentenced to two years of probation and a $500 fine.
11. Alison Matera Attended Her Own Funeral
Alison Matera was a regular church-goer in Florida and was active in the choir. One day, she told her church that she had been diagnosed with cancer and she would be seeking treatment. She came to church off and on during that time, and would update the congregation on her condition. Finally, she told them that she wouldn’t be fighting any longer and that she was entering hospice care. The members of the church cared deeply for her well being, and were updated through her nurse as to how she was doing. Matera eventually died, and her sister called the church about having a service. She said that the casket would be without a body, as it had been sent home to her parents.
It was at this time that people started getting suspicious. Many people had noticed that Matera, her nurse and her sister all sounded eerily similar. When Matera’s sister showed up to the funeral, though, they saw why. Matera was clearly pretending to be her sister and her nurse, and was alive and well. Police found her in her apartment, and said that she claimed to have faked her own death to spare the feelings of those in the church. She didn’t want to be involved anymore, but couldn’t miss the chance to see who showed up at her funeral.
10. Alfredo Sanchez: The Perfect Plan
Farnham, Surrey, England residents Alfredo Sanchez and his wife were all ready to live out their days in hiding, as they took out copious loans and a £500,000 life insurance policy. They flew to South America and when they came back, Sanchez’s wife reported that he had died and been cremated. She reported this to Sanchez’s employer, HMV, who took the death certificate at face value. Their plan paid off initially, as she was able to claim the life insurance policy and was forgiven for the loans. The two met up in Australia and planned to live the rest of their lives there. Problems only arose because Sanchez’s friend had his HMV discount card. He tried to use it and was arrested. Police had him call Sanchez, who picked up the phone before hanging up. This got police onto his trail, which led them to find that Sanchez’s fingerprints were on his own death certificate. They arrested his wife in 2010 when she returned to England for her sister’s funeral. They arrested Sanchez in Australia and expedited him to England where he served 5 years in prison.
9. William Grothe Was Both The Murderer And The Victim
William Grothe wanted to collect his million-dollar life insurance policy while he was still alive to enjoy it, and he attempted to do just that. His wife reported him missing and a bag full of some of his personal items were found near the local river. The bag included his wallet, and police searched for him for days before they gave up. Grother wanted to make sure that the police knew he was killed, so he placed an anonymous call to authorities claiming to be the killer. He made a grave error in this call, however, as police were able to match his voice with the outgoing message on his answering machine. Police caught up to him in Montana, and Grothe was forced to pay back everything he had received, plus some. He was required to pay for the resources used in the search for him, so his net earnings on this venture were about -$11,000
8. Spellcheck Brought Michael Rosen Down
Michael Rosen was in a bit of legal trouble in 2010, and he decided to end it all. He went to court the next day; but instead of being himself he played the role of his brother, handing the court clerk a copy of a death certificate for Michael Rosen. The judge bought it and dismissed his charges, but Rosen’s probation officer was suspicious. He got a hold of the death certificate and noticed some pretty major errors on it. Firstly, there was no official stamp on the document. In addition, there were also several spelling errors, as he spelled the town of Saugus, “Saugas,” and said that he was buried in Temple “Isreal” Cemetery. The probation officer deduced that the document was clearly faked, and that Rosen was still alive. Police caught up to him, and he was eventually sentenced to three years in prison for forgery.
7. Marcus Schrenker: Ghost-Riding the Airplane
Marcus Schrenker was in over his head, as he was wanted for defrauding multiple investors in his companies He used the money to buy expensive cars and planes, and he used one of them to fake his own death. He ignited a mayday call from one of his planes before parachuting to the ground, but it only took a few days for police to find him camping in the woods. He was arrested for the fraud and sentenced to ten years in prison. He is slated to serve that sentence concurrently with a four year sentence for ditching his plane; a very dangerous act. Even after he gets out of prison, Schrenker is likely to face even more court cases in relation to his fraud.
6. Olivia Newton-John’s Boyfriend: Patrick McDermot
Patrick McDermot was the subject of an unsolved disappearance case back in 2005, as he disappeared during a fishing trip. He was only known because of his girlfriend at the time, Olivia Newton-John, but his disappearance had authorities baffled for over ten years. It wasn’t until 2016 that he was reported to be seen living in Mexico. Sightings of McDermot in Mexico were reported as early as 2006, but there was no proof until a private investigator found him and released the information to the public. As of yet, there has been no criminal action taken against McDermot for faking his own death. Newton-John, for her part, has been happily married since 2008, the same year that the Coast Guard determined him “lost at sea.”
5. Just a Short Vacation for John Stonehouse
John Stonehouse was a Labour Party Member of Parliament in the 1950’s, and aimed to make a difference in his country. He had some accomplishments in his career, as well as some failures, but his career came to an end when he mysteriously went missing in 1974 off the coast of Florida. He was presumed to have drowned, and people suspected foul play. There was talk of Mafia intervention and Stonehouse being a spy. As it turns out Stonehouse was a spy, though this was likely unrelated to his disappearance. He was found about a month later in Australia with a mistress. He went back to England to face the music, even representing himself in court. He was sentenced to seven years in prison and had to resign as MP.
4. Ken Kesey, One Flew Over the Border to Avoid Prosecution
Ken Kesey is probably best known for his novel, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. He was also an advocate for the 1960’s subculture that include LSD and marijuana. He was arrested for marijuana possession, which was a much larger crime in the 1960’s than it is today. He decided to make a run for it, and faked his own death to be sure. He drove his car to the coast and left a suicide note inside, insinuating that he had drowned himself. In reality, Kesey was over the border in Mexico, alive and well. He was arrested when he attempted to enter the United States about a year after he faked his death, but he only spent five months in prison.
3. Bennie Wint: Accidental Fugitive
Bennie Wint was wanted on drug charges in Florida in 1989, so he decided to fake his own drowning. Police and rescue teams looked for Wint for a long time during his disappearance, but all search efforts came up empty. He left behind a fiancee and a four-year old daughter. It wasn’t until 2009 that he was discovered in North Carolina. He was pulled over in a routine traffic stop, and was arrested for giving a false name. He eventually told police who he was, and they searched the database for the case he spoke of. As it turns out, Wint was never wanted in the first place; his faked death was all for nothing. Wint is now common-law married to a new woman, and it’s unclear whether or not he ever reached out to his estranged daughter.
2. Gandaruban Subramaniam is “Relationship Goals” to the Max
Singapore resident Gandaruban Subramaniam was having a rough go of it as his rental car business was on the verge of going under. He thought that it would be best for everyone if he disappeared, so he went to Sri Lanka and got himself a fake death certificate. The certificate claimed that he had been shot by a stray bullet and killed. This was during the local civil war in the 1980’s, so the death was believable to many. His wife cashed-in on his life insurance policy, but the two had a family together and missed each other. This led Subramaniam to send for his wife. She joined him in Sri Lanka where they were married, with Subramaniam using a fake name. The couple had their fourth/first child together and raised it together until 2007, when Subramaniam was caught trying to re-enter Singapore. He was sentenced to three years in prison.
1. Peter Gentry Knows What Works
The story of Peter Gentry makes me think that faking your death could work if you’re trying to get out of a court date. Gentry was pulled over and arrested for drunk driving in 1992, but the judge received a death certificate and dropped the charges. There were problems with the certificate, namely the location and date, but it didn’t seem to matter much. He was pulled over a second time for the same offence in a different state and did the exact same thing. The third time he was just as successful, this time making up a disease he contracted in Zimbabwe. It wasn’t until he was pulled over for the second time by the same police officer that he was caught and sentenced to three years for drunk driving and two for faking his death. You have to admire the persistence, though. Cats have nine lives and apparently Peter Gentry has four.
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