A Long Island man facing jail time tried to fake his own demise with a forged death certificate, according to prosecutors in New York.
And he would have gotten away with it, too, if it wasn’t for those meddling copy editors.
Robert Berger, 25, of Huntington, N.Y., pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to one count of offering a false instrument for filing.
Prosecutors say that false instrument was a fake death certificate that was nearly — but not quite — flawless.
The document included a few mistakes that didn’t match up with official documents from the New Jersey Department of Health, Vital Statistics and Registry.
For one, the suspect wrote “Regsitry” instead of “Registry” in one spot, the document shows. The word is spelled incorrectly near the bottom of the page, under “ISSUED BY.”
The real New Jersey Department of Health, Vital Statistics and Registry confirmed that Berger’s death certificate was a fake, prosecutors said.
Nassau County district attorney Madeline Singas says Berger was trying to avoid jail time for two vehicle-related crimes, to which he had previously pleaded guilty.
Berger was awaiting sentencing on charges of possession of a stolen Lexus and attempted grand larceny of a truck last fall. He was scheduled to be sentenced to a year in jail last October but he fled the state, the DA said. The fake death certificate claims he died by suicide and suffocation in late September, shortly before the sentencing date.
The suspect tried to convince the judge, prosecutors and his lawyer at the time that he had died, prosecutors said. His partner allegedly passed on the death certificate.
“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.
Berger was arrested in Pennsylvania on Nov. 14, 2019, and extradited to Nassau County in January, PIX 11 reports.
Berger could face up to an additional four years behind bars if convicted of the false document charge.
A judge set his bail at $1 on Tuesday but returned him to jail because of his other cases. He is due back in court on July 29.
Berger’s public defender did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the AP. His original lawyer has said he had nothing to do with the faked document, and that he was used as a pawn in the scheme.
“Submitting fake documents to prosecutors is always a bad idea,” Singas said in a statement.
“While he’d have been caught regardless, failure to use spell check made this alleged fraud especially glaring.”
—With files from The Associated Press
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