A New York man accused of helping his father try to fake his own death by falsely reporting that the elder man had disappeared while going for a swim was arraigned Tuesday on conspiracy to commit insurance fraud and other charges.
Jonathan Roth, 22, pleaded not guilty in a Long Island courtroom, where bond was set at $10,000. His girlfriend told reporters it was unlikely the unemployed warehouse worker would be able to post the bond. His Legal Aid attorney did not speak to reporters.
Jonathan Roth called police on July 28 to report that his father went swimming at New York's Jones Beach and disappeared.
Investigators wrote in court papers that Roth "was fully aware that his father never walked into the water and had in fact driven off in his own personal vehicle." The criminal complaint alleges Roth and his father, Raymond, conspired to get more than $50,000 in life insurance money by having Jonathan Roth try to file a claim on July 31.
Days after his disappearance, Raymond Roth was stopped going 90 mph and given a speeding ticket in Santee, S.C. The officer who issued the ticket saw that Roth was listed in a national registry of missing people. Roth said he was returning to New York, and the officer let him proceed north.
Jonathan Roth was arrested at the Nassau County District Attorney's office on Monday afternoon. Other charges include insurance fraud and filing a false report. He faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.
He contends he had nothing to do with the actions of his 47-year-old father, who has yet to be located.
Raymond Roth's wife, Evana, told reporters last week that her husband staged the disappearance without her knowledge. She also implicated her stepson in the scheme, distributing emails that she said were on a family computer in their Massapequa home.
In one dated the day before he vanished, the elder Roth instructs his son to contact him at an Orlando, Fla., resort. A second email refers to Raymond Roth's need to "get to the bank for cash for the trip," and a third instructs his son to assist him in packing up the car for his journey.
Jonathan Roth said in newspaper interviews last weekend that he never received any emails from his father.
Evana Roth, 45, said her husband had recently been fired from his job in New York City.
A law enforcement official familiar with a New York City police investigation, but not authorized to comment, told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity that a co-worker told police that Roth had brought a gun to work and threatened two fellow employees in Manhattan in mid-July. He was never charged.
Nassau County Police confirmed that Roth later surrendered a handgun and that his gun license was suspended as the result of the New York City encounter. There is no record that Roth ever applied for, or was issued, a gun permit in New York City.
A spokesman for Roth's former employer, the telecommunications company Level 3 Communications, has declined to comment.
On Monday, Evana Roth obtained an order of protection against her husband and announced plans to file for divorce.
Capt. Bruce Marx of the New York State Park Police, which has jurisdiction over Jones Beach, said detectives have yet to hear from Raymond Roth. Marx estimated that the air and sea search cost tens of thousands of dollars. The search spanned several days and included police vehicles, marine patrols, a helicopter, approximately 40 lifeguards, fire department dive teams and the U.S. Coast Guard, according to the complaint filed Tuesday.
Kristi Mayleas, who said she was Jonathan's girlfriend, told a phalanx of reporters after the arraignment that he had been abused by his father, and she had no information about any plot.
"I feel horrible for him," she said. "His dad has put him through hell his entire life. This is where he ends up just because of his dad."
Associated Press Writer Tom Hays in New York City contributed to this report.