A New York man tried to fake his own death to avoid sentencing for two felonies, but the ruse was unraveled by a typo, according to prosecutors.
Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas announced Tuesday that prosecutors have charged 25-year-old Robert Berger with felony charges of offering false instrument after he allegedly provided authorities with a fake death certificate to avoid being sentenced in two unrelated felony cases.
But authorities soon grew suspicious after they noticed the word "registry" had been misspelled on the death certificate and said “Regsitry” instead.
“Typos and formatting errors gave up what we allege is a forged death certificate that this defendant used to avoid accountability for other crimes,” Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas said in the statement. “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.”
Berger had been awaiting sentencing after agreeing to plead guilty in December 2018 of possession of stolen property in the fourth degree after he stole a Lexus.
He also pled guilty in June 2019 for attempted grand larceny in the third degree after authorities said he tried to steal a pickup truck.
Berger was slated to be sentenced for both offenses on October 22, 2019, but a representative from his former attorney’s office notified the court that the defendant had died and requested the pending sentences be dismissed.
Berger’s former attorney Meir Moza presented the district attorney’s office with a New Jersey Death Certificate about a week later, which claimed Berger had died of suicide by suffocation on Sept. 21, 2019, prosecutors said.
Moza told the court that the death certificate had been given to him by Berger’s fiancé.
However, along with the misspelled word, the district attorney’s office also noticed the font type and size appeared to be different than standard death certificates
“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,” the statement said.
Moza later told a judge that he had done his own investigation and believed that Berger had used him as part of his conspiracy plan to try to perpetrate fraud on the court, prosecutors, his firm, and himself, according to prosecutors. He no longer represents his former client.
Investigators learned that Berger had fled the state. He was later arrested on November 14, 2019 in Delaware County, Pennsylvania on charges that he provided false identification to law enforcement and was later extradited back to New York.
Berger was arraigned on the charges of offering a false instrument for filing on Tuesday and entered a not guilty plea in court.
Bail in that case was set at $1; however, Berger remains remanded on older cases.
His next court appearance is scheduled for July 29, prosecutors said.
“It will never cease to amaze me the lengths some people will go to to avoid being held accountable on criminal charges,” Singas told The Associated Press.
Crime Time is your destination for true crime stories from around the world, breaking crime news, and information about Oxygen's original true crime shows and documentaries. Sign up for our Crime Time Newsletter and subscribe to our true crime podcast Martinis & Murder for all the best true crime content.