Jonathan Roth, the Massapequa man who is charged with assisting in his father's ruse to fake his death and cash in on a $410,000 life insurance policy, said on a national talk show that he only took part in the scheme because he feared for his life.
"I was forced into helping him fake his death" he said on yesterday's "Dr. Phil" Show. "He said that I would die and anyone I told would also die."
Roth, 22, was referring to his father, Raymond Roth, 47, who Jonathan Roth reported had gone swimming at Jones Beach on July 28 but never returned from the surf.
The report launched a massive search for Roth, who was suspected of drowning. Several agencies searched for days at a cost of about $34,000, officials said.
But Raymond Roth reappeared Aug. 2 when he was stopped by police for speeding in Santee, S.C., soon after his brother, Robert Roth, told police that Raymond Roth had turned up at a timeshare in Orlando, Fla.
Raymond Roth was arrested in mid-August and pleaded not guilty to insurance fraud, conspiracy to commit insurance fraud and falsely reporting an incident. He was released on $100,000 cash bail.
Jonathan Roth was charged with insurance fraud, conspiracy to commit insurance fraud, falsely reporting an incident and lying to police. He has pleaded not guilty and is out on $10,000 bail.
On the talk show, Jonathan Roth and his attorney, Joey Jackson of Manhattan, denied Roth tried to commit fraud and cash in on the life insurance policy. But they did say that he took part because his father had physically and verbally abused him since his childhood.
"Not only was it physical, but it was verbal and degrading towards me," he said.
Brian Davis of Garden City, Raymond Roth's attorney, appeared on the show and said the abuse allegations and the charge that Raymond Roth threatened his son are bogus, adding that father and son would drink beer and smoke cigars together like buddies.
"It certainly wasn't an abusive relationship at any time," Davis said. "My client's no angel and this isn't 'Father Knows Best,' but the abuse allegation is just nonsense."