A Huntington man awaiting sentencing on other charges was arraigned Tuesday on charges of trying to fake his own death and using his own attorney to submit a falsified death certificate.
Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas said that Robert Berger, 25, was arraigned on a charge of Offering a False Instrument for Filing (an E felony). Bail was set at $1, but he remains remanded on the old cases and he is due back in court July 29.
He faces a maximum of 1-1/3 to four years in prison on the new charge.
“Typos and formatting errors gave up what we allege is a forged death certificated that this defendant used to avoid accountability for other crimes,”Singas said. “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 faces sentencing on two felony charges in connection to two unrelated cases. On Dec. 12, 2018, the defendant pleaded guilty to Possession of Stolen Property in the Fourth Degree (an E felony) for possessing a stolen Lexus. On June 6, 2019, the defendant pleaded guilty to Attempted Grand Larceny in the Third Degree (an E felony) for attempting to steal a pickup truck.
On Oct. 22, 2019, the cases were in court for sentencing, but a representative from the firm of the defendant’s former attorney, Meir Moza, notified the court that the defendant had died and indicated that his attorneys would provide proof to of death to have the pending sentences of the defendant dismissed.
On Oct28, Moza gave the District Atttorney’s Office a New Jersey death certificate for the defendant, which stated the defendant had died of suicide by suffocation. Moza indicated to the Court and NCDA that he was provided the certificate by the defendant’s fiancé.
Upon inspection of the certificate by the DA’s office, officials noticed that font type and size changed in the document. Additionally, prosecutors saw that the word “Registry” in the department name was misspelled as “Regsitry” in the “ISSUED BY” section. 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.
Moza informed the judge that based upon his own investigation he believed that the defendant engaged in a conspiracy and used him to attempt to perpetrate a fraud upon the court, prosecutors, his firm, and himself.
A copy of the bogus death certificate was also allegedly presented in Suffolk County in connection with Berger’s pending criminal case in that county. Upon learning of the forgery, NCDA immediately notified the Suffolk County Attorney’s Office.
The defendant was arrested in Delaware County, Pa., on Nov. 14, 2019, and was extradited to Nassau County on Jan. 21. Assistant District Attorney Kathleen Swenson of DA Singas’ Financial Crimes Bureau is prosecuting this case. Moza resigned from the case, and the defendant is now represented Taryn Shechter of the Legal Aid Society of Nassau County.