Raymond Roth, who faked drowning, agrees to repay search costs

A Massapequa man who faked his own drowning last year pleaded guilty Thursday to a conspiracy charge and agreed to repay authorities the more than $35,000 they spent searching for him in the waters off Jones Beach. Videojournalist: Jim Staubister

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A Massapequa man who faked his own drowning last year pleaded guilty to conspiracy Thursday and agreed to repay authorities the more than $35,000 they spent searching for him in the waters off Jones Beach.

Raymond Roth, 48, an unemployed telecommunications manager, was sentenced to 90 days in jail and 5 years' probation, and ordered to pay the Coast Guard $27,445 and Nassau County police $9,109.

He is scheduled to be sentenced on the fourth-degree conspiracy plea May 21 by Nassau Judge Tammy Robbins.

"He certainly wasn't thinking correctly," Roth's attorney, Brian Davis of Garden City, said Thursday. "Many of us think about making an escape, but in his mind he was actually going to do it. In his mind he was going to escape and work at a tiki bar or on a fishing boat."

Davis said Roth is now enrolled in a culinary school and hopes to become a chef.

Roth did not comment after his appearance, but before entering his plea a reporter asked if he wanted to apologize.

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"Apologize to who?" Roth said.

In court, Roth, who said he is now medicated for bipolar disorder, admitted to faking his own drowning at Jones Beach on July 28. Before disappearing, he said he had drafted a will that he hoped would pay $410,000 in insurance benefits for his wife, Evana, and son, Jonathan.

As the Nassau Police Bureau of Special Operations, its marine unit and a helicopter searched for Roth over four days, Roth fled to his time-share condo at the Westgate Lakes Resort near Orlando, Fla., prosecutors said.

Police found Roth's clothes, wallet and cellphone at the beach but said the iPhone had been wiped of all data and his driver's license was missing from his wallet. Later, prosecutors viewed surveillance videos that showed Raymond and Jonathan Roth arriving at Jones Beach in separate vehicles, not one, as Jonathan Roth initially told authorities.

Prosecutors contend Jonathan Roth, 22, who called police to report that his father had disappeared in the ocean, was in on the scheme. Jonathan Roth was arrested in August and charged with lying to the police and trying to cash in on his father's $50,000 life insurance policy.

Days after Roth disappeared, his scheme began to unravel -- beginning when his brother and wife told authorities they suspected he was alive and ending when Raymond Roth got a speeding ticket in Santee, S.C.

Davis said Raymond Roth pleaded guilty partly in the hopes of reconciling with his son. Davis and a law enforcement source said Jonathan Roth will resolve his case in the coming weeks and is unlikely to be sentenced to jail. Jonathan Roth's attorney, Joey Jackson of Manhattan, would not comment on any deal in the works but said his client is cooperating with the district attorney.

"There's a lot to be repaired in that relationship," Jackson said of Jonathan and Raymond Roth. "But any time a family can reconcile, it's a good thing."

Evana Roth was never charged in the case and has denied knowing that a scheme was afoot.

"She's happy she's moving on with her life," said her attorney, Lenard Leeds of Carle Place, adding that she is proceeding with a divorce and is glad that an order of protection remains in effect forbidding her husband from contacting her.

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