A thief facing a prison sentence tried to fake his death but his ruse was uncovered when he made an embarrassing spelling mistake.
Robert Berger, from New York, was warned by Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas he was going to jail after he was convicted of being in possession of a stolen Lexus and trying to steal a truck.
So the 25-year-old pretended he committed suicide by suffocation and his death certificate was passed on to his lawyer to present to the court.
Meir Moza, Berger’s lawyer, told the court his client had died on October 22 last year and handed over the certificate.
However, the district attorney’s office noticed not only the font and size was different but ‘Registry’ had been spelled wrong.
The DA’s office said in a statement: “Prosecutors observed that the word ‘Registry’ in the department name was misspelled as ‘Regsitry’ in the ‘ISSUED BY’ section.
“After calling to verify the certificate with the New Jersey Department of Health, Vital Statistics and Registry, investigators confirmed the certificate was, in fact, fraudulent.”
Ms Singas said the typo and format were a giveaway.
“Submitting fake documents to prosecutors is always a bad idea, and while he’d have been caught regardless, failure to use spell check made this alleged fraud especially glaring,” she said.
Mr Moza said Berger’s fiancee gave him the document and he is no longer a client of his.
He said Berger had “engaged in a conspiracy and used him to attempt to perpetrate a fraud upon the court, prosecutors, his firm, and himself”
Berger now faces a charge of faking his own death and could be jailed for up to four years if he is convicted.
He is due back in court on July 29 and a copy of the document was also handed to Suffolk County where he has another criminal case.
In 2002 John Darwin, from Seaton Carew in Cleveland, faked his death by abandoning a canoe, and swimming to shore where he was collected by wife Anne.
She lied to their two children that he was missing, presumed dead.
But John was living in a hidden room in the couple’s house.
Anne claimed hundreds of thousands of pounds in insurance and pension payouts and when the money rolled in, John flew out to Panama City and his wife joined him.
They were together for just three weeks in the country when he decided to return home, handing himself in at a London police station in 2007.
The couple were jailed in 2008 for their life insurance scam which netted them around £500,000.