Fraudster jailed after faking his own death

  • @tompeck

A pensioner from Kent has been jailed after faking his own death in Central America so that he could secure a £520,000 life insurance payout.

Anthony McErlean, 66, was sentenced to six years at Canterbury Crown Court after admitting his false claim. The court heard how McErlean had impersonated his wife and claimed he had died after being hit by a farm truck in Honduras in 2009. Fake documents, including a death certificate, were produced to back up a death benefit claim in the name of his wife, claiming the crash happened as McErlean was changing a tyre.

An invented "witness" said that after the crash farm workers took McErlean's body away to a small village. But the Insurance Fraud Bureau was contacted by officials at Ace European insurance company, which did not make a payment to McErlean.

The firm, already suspicious as it had not been given McErlean's passport, carried out tests on documents relating to his "death" and found McErlean's fingerprints on his own death certificate. Kent Police then arrested him, and found him with a debit card in the name of Green.

Judge Adele Williams told McErlean: "This is deliberate and calculated fraud, not only from corporate bodies but also from the public.

"In my judgment, you were driven by a desire to gratify your own overweening greed. You sought to benefit at the expense of others."

Peter Alcock, defending, said McErlean had experienced financial difficulties since his first wife died after a terminal illness.

He added: "He is sorry for what he has done. He at least made admissions when he was interviewed in respect of the life insurance count. He didn't, in fact, receive anything from the policy."

McErlean received a total of six years behind bars for fraud in relation to the insurance claim, for two counts of theft in connection with the pension payments and for one count of fraudulently obtaining a passport.

The court was told that McErlean, a twice-married father, had previous convictions dating back to 1963. These included convictions for robbery and possession of a firearm.

McErlean was dressed smartly, and showed little emotion as he returned to court. In a previous police interview he had said he "didn't want to be destitute in old age".