A Massapequa man has admitted faking his own drowning death in an attempt to escape mounting debt, have his family profit from his life insurance policy and secretly start his life over in Florida.
Raymond Roth pleaded guilty Thursday at Nassau County court to fourth-degree conspiracy, a felony, in a plea deal with prosecutors. He’s expected to be sentenced May 21 to 90 days in jail on the condition that he pays $36,000 in restitution to the U.S. Coast Guard and Nassau police for resources wasted searching for his body at Jones Beach last summer.
“I’m feeling better, I’ve started school,” the 48-year-old unemployed telecommunications worker told Judge Tammy Robbins after recapping his two-week psych-ward stay, diagnoses as bipolar and suicide attempt before he turned himself in to police last August.
Roth’s 22-year-old son, Jonathan, had reported that Raymond went missing while swimming at the beach July 28, prompting a search that lasted days until police learned he was at his time share in Florida. Jonathan pleaded guilty to conspiracy and filing a false report Monday.
“He was not thinking rationally at the time,” Raymond’s Garden City based attorney, Brian Davis, told reporters outside the courthouse. He said his client was planning to get a job on a fishing boat or at a tiki bar in the Sunshine State.
Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice said the bizarre case proved to be a needless distraction for search and rescue workers.
“This case easily could’ve turned tragic had an actual emergency occurred while this defendant sent first responders on a wild goose chase,” Rice said.
Davis said that Raymond, who is reportedly enrolled in culinary school, is hoping to reconnect with his son, who accused Raymond of abusing him and coercing him to participate in the scheme.
Raymond’s wife, Evana, filed for divorce last year after she discovered emails revealing her husband and son had plotted the fake drowning a week in advance. Raymond had also put the family home up for sale, sold his clothes and emptied the couples’ bank accounts.
After the plot started to unravel, Raymond called police himself to say he would turn himself in, then was stopped for speeding in South Carolina while on his way back to New York.
Raymond had faced up to 15 years in prison if he had been convicted at trial of insurance fraud. His son is due back in court April 15. Raymond declined to comment to reporters while leaving the court.