Jailed for faking her own death: outrageous insurance fakers

The plotters who tried - and failed - to fake their own deaths

Arafa Nassib court case

Arafa Nassib (pictured arriving at court) has been jailed for faking her own death. The 48-year-old from the West Midlands had run up debts of £80,000 before traveling to Zanzibar last year, where she was reported to have died in a car crash. Her son submitted an insurance claim, but investigators smelled a rat and dug a little deeper.

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They discovered that Nassib had build up enormous debts after making purchases at furniture companies BrightHouse and PerfectHome. She then took out life insurance policies, with her son as the beneficiary, before travelling to Zanzibar. Her son submitted a death certificate and a claim for £136,530.

The insurers were concerned, because Tanzania is a high risk country for insurance fraud, so they travelled to Zanzibar and discovered that the doctor who was reported as having treated Nassib had not been in Tanzania on the day. They then discovered that Nassib had flown back to Birmingham after her supposed death, and then on to Canada. She had even phoned her son while she was in the UK. Nassib was jailed for two and a half years, and her son for a year.

Fake claims

It's an outlandish story, but they are far from the only pair to have cooked up a fake death for an insurance payout - and not the first to get caught either. Here are five of the most outlandish tales.

One of the most shocking stories was of John and Anne Darwin, who faked John's death in a canoe accident in 2002, after running up huge debts. He spent years living in a tiny flat next to his wife's house, and staying out of sight, before moving to Panama. It was when the couple were buying property there that a photo emerged of them together, and the fraud fell apart. They were both jailed. One of the most shocking aspects of this story is that neither of their sons knew about the fraud, and so believed their father had died.

A more gruesome tale emerged from the US in 2005. Molly and Clayton Daniels from Leander in the US decided to fake Clayton's death in order to claim on his $110,000 insurance policy (as well as avoiding him having to report to jail for failing to report to his probation officer). They dug up a corpse, dressed it in Clayton's clothes, pushed it off a roadside cliff, and set fire to it. The idea was to make it impossible to identify the corpse, but DNA testing revealed that not only was the body not Clayton; it was a woman. Not only that, but the fire was started on the driver's seat, and assisted with lighter fluid. Molly was jailed for 20 years and Clayton for 30 years.

In 2001, it was sheer stupidity that exposed a plot to fake the death of Raul Eduardo Pero, who was living in Los Angeles at the time. Pero took out $1,950,000 worth of life insurance from six different companies, then travelled to his native Chile and faked his death. His roommate at the time called the insurers to report his death and claims were made for death benefits. There was nothing there to ring the alarm bells for each company. However, his roommate slipped up, because when she submitted his death certificate, the companies noted that the date of his death fell after she made the initial phone call. The FBI applied to exhume his body, and discovered that his coffin was empty. Pero was jailed.

In 2011, stupidity again played a key role in trapping a fraudster. Anthony McErlean, a 72-year-old former insurance salesman from Kent, had £520,000 worth of life insurance when he faked his own death in a road accident with a cabbage lorry in Honduras. The location of his death, and the fact there was no UK burial or cremation, led the insurance company to contact the police. They started by examining the death certificate that had been submitted to the firm - where they found McErlean's fingerprints. He was jailed for six years.

Perhaps the most unusual attempt to fake a death was in 2008, when Ahmad Akhtary, a 34-year-old factory worker living in Gloucester, was reported dead after an accident in his native Afghanistan. His ex-wife, and the mother of his triplets, tried to claim £300,000 on his life insurance policy. However, the plot started to unravel when Akhtary returned to Gloucester, and continued with his old life - working at his old job and paying taxes. The insurers were alerted to the situation when he visited his usual GP weeks after he was supposed to have died. The pair received suspended jail sentences.

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