There have been many mysterious, unusual and downright bizarre life insurance claims in the history of this industry. Here, we bring you some of the most controversial, weird and just plain creepy claims, touched with a tinge of desperation. Some cases were presumably committed "in the name of love" and others were more of the "because we're friends" kind.
Walmart settles “dead peasant insurance” suit
Used for the right reasons, corporate-owned life insurance is a complex form of life insurance that can be an important protection product for businesses. But there is a shady side to this type of transaction, too: Companies who have taken out life insurance policies on lower-level employees with themselves marked as the beneficiary (and, in the past, without notifying employees of the policies) have been accused of arranging for "dead peasant insurance." These companies have also been accused of exploiting the tax advantages that such policies allowed.
Such was the case with Walmart, which began taking out life insurance policies on their lower-level-skilled employees in the 1990s. They bought around 350,000 policies for employees in the U.S., according to some accounts. It was only when the federal government closed the tax loophole and went after Walmart to make them pay back taxes that the families of deceased employees sued in several states.
One of the suits was settled in 2006 for $5.1 million by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma.
Creep factor: 7
Policies like these are still sold, though the companies are required to have the employees’ consent to take out life insurance on them. The most recent case of the “icks” was reported this year in California at The Orange County Register newspaper.
Father & son, partners in crime
No words can express the desperation, frustration and hopelessness one feels when you have to report a loved one as “missing” to the police. But for Jonathan Roth and his father Raymond Roth from Long Island, that was all part of the plan. The report that his father was missing triggered a massive search by the authorities in 2012.
The younger Roth called a life insurance company three days after reporting that his dad was missing about cashing in on an insurance policy. Apparently, the older Roth had staged his disappearance, spurring his son to attempt to claim $410,000 in policies. Less than a week after being reported missing, the older Roth was issued a speeding ticket in South Carolina.
Both Roths were arrested and have been sentenced to prison this year.
Creep factor: 8
The bond between father and son may go well beyond scientific explanation, but bonding over football seems more harmless than bonding over how they’re going to “fake dad’s death and claim the money.”
Woman helps husband fake his own death
Cemeteries are places of silence, solace and reflection … except when there’s a man digging up the corpse of an 81-year-old woman. This is apparently what Clayton Daniels did in Texas back in 2005: dug up the woman’s body, dressed her in his clothes, burned the body and put it in his car.
Then, his wife tried to collect her “dead” husband’s life insurance policy that totaled $110,000, claiming that he had died, charred, in a car accident. But, surprise! The police performed a DNA test and found that the body was of Charlotte Davis, who had died six months earlier. They also found Daniels alive, in his house, with a different hair color and under a different name. Turns out the couple had committed the crime to cover Daniels’ past as a sex offender.
Creep factor: 9
Was there a memo that said that “thou shalt commit crimes in the name of love”? Both went to jail and the last time this case was on the news, the wife was seeking parole.
Friend chops off other friend’s hand to collect on ad&d
If you’ve watched the horror movie Saw by James Wan, This case would seem to have been inspired, to some extent, on it. We could never even attempt to guess what was going on in this man’s mind when he decided that it would be a great idea to make a quick buck by severing off his friend’s hand. And he did: he used a pole saw to chop it off and then claimed more than $670,000 between a homeowner’s insurance policy and three ad&d policies, along with the amputee and another unidentified man.
The accused, Gerald Hardin, was facing charges back in 2012 in South Carolina.
Creep factor: 9
No matter how much you love your friends and you want to help them out, one should draw the line at losing limbs and committing fraud.
The incredible and mysterious tale of death-cheating Mike Malloy
Back in the 1930s, the legend of “Mike the Durable” or “Iron Mike” Malloy was born. A former firefighter, Mike Malloy was a homeless drunk man who lived in New York City. Malloy had a favorite watering hole, Marino’s, a speakeasy bar owned by Tony Marino.
Marino persuaded four friends to join him in what was dubbed “The Murder Trust”: Francis Pasqua, an undertaker, Joseph Murphy, a bartender at Marino’s, Harry Green, a cab driver, and Daniel Kriesberg. These five men plotted to make Malloy take out three life insurance policies and then kill him with “an open bar tab.”
Despite their best efforts, Malloy kept coming back to the bar, still alive and asking for more drinks. Marino started to get impatient. He laced Malloy’s drinks with antifreeze. When that failed, he tried turpentine, horse liniment and even rat poison; nothing worked.
One of the other men suggested soaking raw oysters in wood alcohol and feeding them to the drunk. When that didn’t work, they gave him a rotten sardine sandwich, garnished with tin shavings, which the drunken man ate with much gusto.
Months had gone by and Malloy would not die, costing Marino money in alcohol and insurance premiums. Frustrated and desperate, the gang decided to hire cab driver Harry Green to run Malloy over. According to accounts, Malloy avoided the cab twice, but was hit the third time. On the road, the cabbie backed up over him again, just to make sure, and the gang left the crime scene in a hurry.
A few weeks later, in walks Malloy limping and bandaged with a story: He remembered drinking, the cold air, the rushing lights, and waking up in a warm bed in Fordham Hospital. He had been admitted under a false name.
This was the last straw. Seven months after The Murder Trust had made the grim plans, Malloy died on February 21, 1933; a rubber hose ran from his mouth to a gas light fixture, a towel on his face. Pasqua’s friend, Dr. Frank Manzella, issued a fake death certificate, which cited lobar pneumonia as the cause of death.
Murphy then was able to collect approximately $800 from one of the insurance policies. When Pasqua went to retrieve the money from the other two, the insurance agent asked if he could see the body. Pasqua replied that it had been buried.
This raised a red flag with the agent, and an investigation began. Green, the cabbie, spoke out about the gang’s plans because he hadn’t been paid his full share. The gang was arrested; all were sentenced to death by electric chair at Sing Sing prison. The doctor who issued the fake death certificate was sentenced to an indeterminate prison term.
Malloy was reburied, taking with him his uncanny luck…
Creep factor: 10
Perhaps most surprising about this story is the resilience or will to live that Malloy apparently had. If the accounts are true, in all, Malloy survived about 10 to 20 attempts on his life.