Four ridiculous life insurance scams

Zombie hand emerging from ground
John had told his family to make his fake funeral look as realistic as possible, but had to admit being buried alive was a step too far
"It all came tumbling down on a mountain hike when he ran into his brother, who was obviously a little surprised to see his 'dead' sibling"
  • | by Abbie Laughton-Coles

Faking your own death for a big life insurance pay-out is no easy task.

Apart from making it look convincing to the police (anyone who has seen CSI will attest that these guys are thorough), you can never be seen by anyone you know ever again or return back home. It all just seems like a lot of effort.

The following people thought it was worth a punt, but ultimately learned that crime doesn't pay… or more accurately, it may do for a while. But then you'll get caught and have to go to prison. That's not as catchy though...

Time to face the music

 Man wearing handcuffs

A former HMV employee tried his luck at faking his own death for a life insurance payout of £112,000 plus pension payments in 2004.

It all started when Hugh Jose Sanchez began taking out life insurance policies and a number of loans, all while running up a heap of credit card debt. Anyone else smell something a bit fishy?

Sanchez and his family then emigrated from Surrey to Costa Rica but he returned to the UK for work later in the year. He left again in December for what HMV thought was a holiday, but his desk had been completely cleared. Definite stink of kippers in the air now.

HMV then received a call from his wife the next month saying that Sanchez had died of a heart attack in Ecuador and had been cremated. She received a death benefit payment of £112,000 and pension payments.

However, things started to go awry in 2007 when an insurance investigator was appointed to this suspicious case. It wasn't long before they uncovered that friends and family of the couple knew him to be very much alive and living in Australia.

Result: Mr and Mrs Sanchez were both arrested – Mrs Sanchez while visiting Britain in 2010 and Mr Sanchez was extradited from down under in 2012.

That's life

Brain scan images

Anju and Sanjay Kumar tried to scam life insurance and investment companies out of £1.1m in 2011.

Anju claimed that her husband had died of a brain fever while in India and was cremated. However, during enquiries by their insurance companies, it emerged that the death certificate was false, there was no evidence that the cremation had taken place and the person who Sanjay had stayed with in India said he didn't even know him. Oh, and they also found out that Sanjay had flown home to the UK from India under an alias.

Result: Sanjay was jailed for two-and-a-half years. His wife was spared jail but received a suspended sentence.

Brother, where art thou?

Man rowing in a dinghy

A millionaire businessman from New South Wales faked his own death in 2000 for a life insurance claim of £1.75m.

Harry Gordon decided drowning was the way to go when faking his own death. He popped out to sea at night in his speedboat, loaded it up with some personal possessions (take notes Mr Sanchez), plus a few empty bottles of champers – you've got to go out in style after all – and then rowed back to shore in a dingy.

His wife, who knew of the plan, kept schtum and, although a body was never recovered, Gordon was declared dead in 2001. His family submitted their life insurance claim for £1.75m, which was rejected.

Gordon then used a fake passport and on his travels ventured to Wigan where he worked in a crisp warehouse – a natural progression, clearly. After hiding out in the Lancashire metropolis, he then moved to New Zealand where he married a social worker... even though he was technically still married to his wife.

It all came tumbling down on him when he ran into his brother while he was out on a mountain hike. Naturally, he was a little surprised to see his 'dead' sibling. His brother then convinced his first wife to dob him in to the police.

Result: Gordon was given a prison sentence of 18 months, of which he served 12. His original wife was given five months of home detention. Once he got out, Gordon married his New Zealand wife for real.

Dude looks like a lady

Car on fire

Clayton Wayne Daniels faked his death for a $110,000 life insurance payout with help from his wife, Molly Daniels.

The couple decided to dig up a body from the cemetery to stage a fake fiery car crash where Clayton would tragically 'lose his life'. However, the evidence just didn't add up: there were no skid marks on the road, but there was evidence of lighter fluid on the seats.

Oh, and then there was the fact that the body didn't match the DNA of the 'deceased' and actually belonged to that of an elderly woman...

Result: Some serious prison time for the pair.