Kentucky man admits to faking own death to avoid paying child support

<span>Graves on a hillside in Kentucky.</span><span>Photograph: Jeff Swensen/The Guardian</span>
Graves on a hillside in Kentucky.Photograph: Jeff Swensen/The Guardian

A man in southern Kentucky has admitted in court to faking his own death to avoid paying more than $100,000 in outstanding child support to his ex-wife.

Jesse Kipf, 39, pleaded guilty on 29 March in federal court to computer fraud and identity theft after he accessed Hawaii’s death registry system and posed as a doctor from another state in order to create a fake death certificate for himself.

According to a plea agreement filed in court, Kipf filled out a Hawaii death certificate worksheet in early 2023, essentially assigned himself as the medical certifier for the case and certified his own death.

“He applied a digital signature for [the physician], providing his name, title, and license number. This resulted in the defendant being registered as deceased in many government databases,” the government said.

Kipf then “infiltrated” other states’ death registry systems using credentials stolen from other people to infiltrate private businesses, government and corporate networks (allegedly the booking systems of a number of hotel chains), and then tried to sell access to the networks to potential customers online.

“The defendant faked his own death, in part, in order to avoid his outstanding child support obligations to his ex-wife,” the government said.

But the plan eventually went wrong, and Kipf now owes about $116,000 to his ex-wife, along with $200,000 to businesses and government agencies he hacked. In addition, he faces a maximum of seven years in prison and up to $500,000 in fines at a sentencing date tentatively set for 12 April.