The attorney for a Massapequa man accused of helping his father try to fake his own death in an alleged insurance scam said Thursday that the relationship between the two will be an important factor in formulating a defense.
"It's safe to say that it is a very strained and I would say unfortunate relationship," attorney Joey Jackson told reporters outside a Long Island courthouse.
His 22-year-old client, Jonathan Roth, of Massapequa, was arrested Monday on charges including conspiracy to commit insurance fraud. Investigators say he falsely reported that his father, Raymond Roth, 47, disappeared July 28 at Jones Beach in an apparent drowning. Days later, he allegedly schemed with his father to collect more than $50,000 in life insurance benefits.
He has pleaded not guilty and was being held on $10,000 bond. A hearing on his case was rescheduled for Tuesday.
Following a search and rescue effort that lasted for several days and cost tens of thousands of dollars, the elder Roth was reported to be alive at a Florida resort and later was issued a speeding ticket in South Carolina.
Raymond Roth is currently receiving psychiatric treatment at an undisclosed Long Island hospital, his attorney said Wednesday. The lawyer, Brian Davis, also said he expects his client will eventually face charges similar to those filed against Jonathan Roth.
In court papers, Jonathan Roth admitted to investigators that the drowning never happened. He "was fully aware that his father never walked into the water and had in fact driven off in his own personal vehicle," according to the criminal complaint. He faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.
Jackson declined to discuss specifics about the allegations involving his client. He said he intended to investigate how the alleged plot unfolded and indicated he would examine whether Jonathan Roth was coerced into cooperating with his father.
"We'll be talking a lot about his relationship with his father and how he feels about his father," Jackson said.
Raymond Roth's attorney said his client was depressed, was on medication and would be released "when doctors determine he is no longer a danger to himself."
A spokesman for the Nassau County district attorney declined to comment.
Davis said Roth entered the hospital sometime late last week, after telling police in New York that he planned to return from his southern sojourn. Police awaited his return for days, but authorities said he never contacted them.
Also this week, Roth's wife, Evana, claimed that she had been abused during their 12-year marriage and obtained a restraining order against her husband. She also announced plans to file for divorce. She said she had no idea that he was plotting his alleged disappearance until she uncovered emails sent from father to son alluding to the scheme.
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