Raymond Roth, Once-Missing Jones Beach Swimmer, Pleads Not Guilty
MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A Long Island man pleaded not guilty Wednesday afternoon on charges he faked his own death in an alleged scheme to collect on life insurance policies. He faces charges of insurance fraud, conspiracy to commit insurance fraud and falsely reporting an incident.
Hours after the hearing, Roth was freed on $100,000 bail posted by his brother, CBS 2 reported.
Roth will be staying with his brother and seeking outpatient psychiatric treatment, CBS’s Carolyn Gusoff reported.
Raymond Roth was arrested Wednesday morning after spending about 10 days involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital.
It was the first time the 47-year-old had been seen in public since his son, Jonathan Roth, reported him missing from Jones Beach on July 28.
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Speaking at a news conference Wednesday afternoon, Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice called Roth’s alleged actions “selfish and reckless.”
“My office will aggressively prosecute these crimes and seek full restitution for the public resources that were wasted by Mr. Roth’s criminal fraud,” she said.
Raymond Roth’s attorney Brian Davis said his client was not trying to scam the system, but rather cash in on life insurance policies he thought he was going to lose after getting fired from his job.
“He was under medication that was not working that was actually deleterious to his mental health,” Davis said.
Rice said there is surveillance video from the morning of the missing persons report that showed Roth and his son planned the death-faking scheme for insurance money, but Raymond Roth’s attorney said that’s not the case.
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“My client was astonished that his son did this,” Davis said.
But the D.A. said the facts shows the plot was pre-planned.
“It was the understanding of the state parks police that he and his son had gone to the beach together and that, in fact, there was only one vehicle,” Rice said.
Roth was taken to state park police headquarters before being moved to the First District Court in Hempstead for his arraignment later in the day.
“He was very calm. There was no resistance, no problems at the hospital and we made sure he had breakfast and he’s quite relaxed,” said New York State Park Police Det. Sgt. Thomas Duignan.
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Roth was reported missing by his 22-year-old son in a frantic 911 call saying his father had disappeared in the waters off Jones Beach.
“Jonathan Roth told emergency workers that his father was wearing black mesh shorts, that he had looked for his father in the water and that he was unable to find his father,” Rice said. ”Mr. Roth’s clothes, wallet and cell phone were left on the beach, his iPhone was wiped of all data and his driver’s license was missing from the wallet.”
Leaving the world to think he had drowned, authorities said Roth was actually alive and well at a resort in Florida.
“While authorities, friends and neighbors searched tirelessly for Mr. Roth, he was on his way to his timeshare at the West Gate Lake Resort in Orlando Florida,” Rice said.
“People were upset that a lot of resources were expended that day searching for him — Coast Guard, helicopters,” said New York State Park Police Capt. Bruce Marx. “People did express outrage at that.”
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Prosecutors said the father-son duo hatched the scheme to fake the elder Roth’s death in hopes of cashing in hundreds of thousands of dollars in life insurance policies.
“Roth left behind a recently drafted will that was improperly executed and hoped that by faking his own death, at least $410,000 in life insurance policies would be paid to his son and his wife,” Rice said.
Roth mistakenly thought that life insurance policies paid for by his former employee would expire at the end of July, Rice said.
Prosecutors said the pair’s plan was for Jonathan Roth to try to file a claim on July 31.
“Though it is very unlikely that insurers would have paid on the policies pursuant to Mr. Roth’s directives, he nonetheless attempted to defraud insurers, abandon his problems at home, and begin a new life in Florida,” Rice said.
But the alleged plot was discovered when prosecutors said Roth’s wife Evana stumbled on emails between father and son discussing details of the plan.
The younger Roth was later arrested and charged in connection with the case.
According to court documents, prosecutors said Jonathan Roth was “at all times was fully aware that his father never walked into the water and had in fact driven off in his personal vehicle.”
The 22-year-old pleaded not guilty to insurance fraud, conspiracy and falsely reporting an incident.
Now free on bail, Jonathan Roth’s attorney Joey Jackson said Tuesday that his client is a victim.
“This case, in and of itself, is about three things in my mind,” Jackson said. “It’s about coercion, it’s about the abuse we talked about and it’s about manipulation.”
Raymond Roth’s attorney said his client tried to commit suicide after being found alive and learning his son had been arrested.
“He was upset, but he was under medication,” Davis said. ”Took him a while to absorb it.”
Davis blames Roth’s alleged actions on being fired, a blow he said set off a series of irrational moves.
“Putting the house up for sale right away, giving away his suits to charity,” Davis said. ”Nothing there was rational. Psychiatric illness.”
Rice said investigators learned Roth had been demoted repeatedly at work.
“After a recent demotion he threatened to bring a gun to work and kill his superiors,” Rice said. “He was fired on July 20.”
Both Raymond and Jonathan Roth face up to 15 years in prison if convicted.
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