3 Famous Insurance Fraud Cases

Over the years, there have been many people who have faked their own death in an attempt to fool the authorities and get a huge life insurance payout.

However, this doesn’t always go to plan, and the result is a hefty fine and prison sentence for fraud. Here are three of the most famous insurance fraud cases that have been brought to the attention of the public.

John Darwin

One of the most famous cases of someone faking their own death for the insurance payout is the John Darwin disappearance case.

John and his wife Anne were facing tens of thousands of pounds worth of debts when they decided on carrying out the scam, and on the 21st March 2002 John faked an accident in his canoe and was presumed dead.  

Over the years that Darwin was presumed dead, he was actually living in a bedsit next door to his wife’s house and would sneak in to see her through a wall that was hidden by a wardrobe with a false back.

In March 2003, John’s death certificate was released which allowed Anne to claim hundreds of thousands in life insurance. Later that year, a neighbour saw John in the family home and questioned him, to which John replied ‘don’t tell anyone about this’. The neighbour later said that he didn’t notify the authorities as he didn’t want to get involved.

Using a fake passport, John and Anne later moved to Panama, where they were photographed for a local website.

Due to changes in Panama’s visa laws, John decided to return to the UK and fake amnesia and on the 1st December 2007, John gave himself up to the police and claimed he had no memory of the previous five years.

A few days later, the photo of John and Anne in Panama was published in the newspapers which, alongside more evidence, helped to convict them both of fraud.

Nowadays, both John and Anne have been released from prison. Anne now lives in a small, one-bedroomed flat in York and John has since published a book about his experiences called ‘The Canoe Man’.

John Stonehouse

When he ran into financial difficulties, politician John Stonehouse left a pile of clothes on Miami beach in November 1974, giving the impression that he had gone swimming and drowned or possibly killed by a shark. In reality he was on his way to Australia with his mistress to start a new life.

Under a false name, Stonehouse began to move money between banks to cover his tracks. However, this caused the banks to get suspicious and Stonehouse was put under surveillance. The police originally suspected him of being Lord Lucan, who had disappeared two weeks earlier, but Stonehouse was arrested on 24th December 1974 and deported to the UK six months later.

In August 1976 Stonehouse was convicted of fraud and sentenced to seven years in prison. He died in 1988 from a heart attack at his house in Totton.

Anthony McErlean

In 2011, pensioner Anthony McErlean pleaded guilty to faking his own death in Central America so that he could claim insurance that amounted to over half a million pounds.

However, after McErlean pretended to be his wife on the insurance forms claiming that he had died after being knocked down by a truck, the insurance company became suspicious and notified the authorities.

It later emerged that he had not only faked his own death, but had also been claiming a pension for his father-in-law who had died in 2007. He was sentenced to six years in prison for ‘deliberate and calculated’ fraud.

For more information on insurance fraud, click here.