Tuesday 12 December 2017

Video: Man charged with faking his own death in insurance scam

Katie Hodge

A British man wanted for allegedly faking his own death as part of a £1.25m (€1.4m) life insurance scam has been arrested in Australia.

Hugo Sanchez, 47, was accused of fraud after police allegedly discovered his own fingerprints on his death certificate.

The web designer, formerly known as Alfredo, was discovered in Sydney following a six-year international man-hunt. Authorities are now seeking his extradition to the UK.

Sanchez and his wife Sophie, 43, were accused of staging the elaborate ruse after finding themselves deeply in debt in 2004.

Prosecutors claim Ecuador-born Sanchez persuaded his wife to tell the authorities and his employer, HMV, that he died of a heart attack while on holiday in Ecuador in January 2005.

The record company paid for Mrs Sanchez to travel to South America from the couple's home in Farnham, Surrey, so she could attend his funeral.

She provided a death and cremation certificate and received a death benefit payment of £112,000. She also began claiming on the life insurance policies he had taken out and received a large sum of money as part of his pension package before fleeing the country.

In April 2005, she returned to the UK in order to appoint a solicitor to obtain probate on the estate.

She provided the firm with the death certificates and went on to complete claim forms in respect of the other insurance policies, some of which settled that year.

But an insurance investigator appointed by the larger companies later established that friends and relatives believed Sanchez to be alive and well and living in Costa Rica.

The remaining claims were refused.

HMV wrote to the Sanchez family requesting return of their monies but did not receive a response and reported the matter to police in 2007.

Detectives later identified Sanchez's fingerprints on his death certificate and the couple were jointly charged with fraud.

Mrs Sanchez was arrested last September at Heathrow Airport after she arrived in the country for her sister's wedding.

She admitted her husband was still alive and was handed a two-year prison term in December after pleading guilty to six counts of fraud at Oxford Crown Court.

At the time, Sanchez was understood to be living in Australia with the couple's four children.

Sanchez was held yesterday by the Australian Federal Police on an international arrest warrant.

He is due to appear in court today as prosecutors seek his extradition to Britain to face trial.

His lawyer Jim Nicopoulos has indicated he will not contest the application.

Detective Constable Jacqui Bartlett, of Thames Valley Police, said: "I am very grateful for the assistance from the Australian Federal Police, New South Wales Police and the Australian authorities in supporting the investigation being carried out in the UK.

"Hopefully, this will be the final stage in what has been a prolonged case.

"It is anticipated that the extradition process will take anything from several months to quite possibly years depending on whether Mr Sanchez exercises his right to appeal."

Last month, Mrs Sanchez was ordered to repay £158,000 to HMV at a confiscation hearing.

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