The Massapequa man accused of faking his own drowning in a "selfish and reckless" bid to collect insurance money was arrested on fraud charges Wednesday, weeks after setting the scheme into motion with help from his son, prosecutors said.
Raymond Roth, 47, pleaded not guilty to insurance fraud, conspiracy to commit insurance fraud and falsely reporting an incident. The unemployed telecommunications manager quickly posted $100,000 cash bail and walked out of First District Court in Hempstead with his brother and his lawyer. He faces up to 15 years in prison, if convicted.
Prosecutors say Roth faked his drowning at Jones Beach on July 28 with hopes of starting a new life in Florida. Before disappearing, he had drafted a will that was "improperly executed" and made arrangements he hoped would lead to his wife, Evana, and son, Jonathan, collecting at least $410,000 in insurance benefits, prosecutors said.
"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," said Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice.
By the time Jonathan Roth, 22, called police to fraudulently report that his father had disappeared in the ocean, Raymond Roth was already on his way to his time share at the West Gate Lake Resort in Orlando, prosecutors said.
Police found Raymond Roth's clothes, wallet and cellphone at the beach, prosecutors said, but the iPhone had been wiped of all data and the driver's license was missing from the wallet. Later, prosecutors viewed surveillance videos that showed Raymond and Jonathan Roth had arrived at Jones Beach in two separate vehicles, not one, as Jonathan Roth initially told authorities.
Prosecutors said they would seek restitution for the exhaustive search effort triggered by Roth's faked drowning. The operation, which involved the Coast Guard, State Park Police, Nassau County Police and resources from as far away as Boston, cost more than $34,000, including more than $7,000 in fuel costs alone spent by Nassau police, officials said.
"He was getting out of here to avoid the pressure he felt was coming down on him," Davis said. "He was surprised to hear that Jonathan made a claim for the insurance. That's not something they had been discussing."
Jonathan Roth was arrested and charged Monday with lying to the police, then trying to cash in on his father's $50,000 life insurance policy. He has pleaded not guilty to the same charges that his father faces and is out on $10,000 bail.
The first four days after he disappeared, Raymond Roth was presumed drowned. Then, on Aug. 1, the scheme began to unravel. His brother, Robert Roth, called police to tell them Raymond Roth was staying at his Orlando time share, authorities said.
That same day, Evana Roth told authorities about emails on Jonathan Roth's computer suggesting Raymond Roth had not drowned -- and had actually hatched the plot with his son, authorities said.
Early the next morning, Raymond Roth got a speeding ticket in Santee, S.C., and police there quickly notified authorities on Long Island.
Jonathan Roth's attorney, Joey Jackson, of Manhattan, said Raymond Roth's attempt to avoid blame for the insurance fraud was "laughable and sadistic." He said, "It's just unbelievable that any parent would attempt to throw their child under the bus like this."
Evana Roth denied having any inkling an insurance scheme was afoot. "I don't know who to believe anymore," she said. "It's up to the courts to decide."
With Matthew Chayes
and Kery Murakami
July 28 Jonathan Roth reports his father, Raymond, missing at Jones Beach, prosecutors say. A massive search begins.
July 31 Jonathan Roth files a false insurance claim, according to court documents.
Aug. 1 Evana Roth tells police she has found emails from her husband to Jonathan Roth indicating that he has fled and is not dead.
Aug. 1 Police say Raymond Roth's brother notifies them Roth is in Florida. Search is called off.
Aug. 2 Raymond Roth is stopped for speeding by police in Santee, S.C.
Aug. 6 Jonathan Roth is arrested. He pleads not guilty in the scheme.
Aug. 14 Jonathan Roth posts bail and is released from Nassau County Jail.
Aug. 15 Raymond Roth leaves the hospital and surrenders to police. He pleads not guilty and is released on bail.