Indian businessman crash, pilot fake death, Marcus Schrenker
AJ Mast/AP
Light snow falls on the home of missing Indiana businessman Marcus Schrenker in McCordsville,
Ind., Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2009. (AP)

Schrenker Manhunt Recalls Others Who Faked Their Own Deaths

January 13, 2009 06:15 PM
by Josh Katz
The faked death of a businessman in trouble with the law recalls other incidents when individuals either tried to fake their own deaths or kidnappings.

It’s Not Easy to Fake a Death

Marcus Schrenker is still on the run for allegedly faking his death by crashing his private plane in Florida on Sunday. Although Schrenker’s tactic for avoiding financial fraud is unorthodox, other people have tried the same thing.

Samuel Israel, the cofounder of the Stamford, Conn. hedge fund Bayou Group LLC, was about to serve 20 years in prison for robbing his investors of more than $400 million. But in June 2008, he tried to avoid prison by faking his suicide. He abandoned his car near the Bear Mountain Bridge in New York with the message “Suicide is Painless” written on the windshield.

Following Israel’s mysterious disappearance, police aircraft and boats began searching the river for his body. When they could not find his body or any witnesses who saw a man jump, they determined that the suicide was a hoax. Israel would turn himself into police just over a week later.

Also in June 2008, a man on the other side of the globe was arrested for faking his death years earlier. After the failure of his car rental business left him saddled with debt, Gandaruban Subramaniam of Singapore, “faked his own death in a civil war shoot-out in Sri Lanka in 1987 to escape his creditors and claim S$331,341 ($243,600) in insurance money,” Reuters reported. Subramaniam was imprisoned for three years for the ploy.

Following a spearfishing outing in September 2008, John Sung Park, 29, went missing in Laguna Beach, Calif. A day-long search effort that cost an estimated $50,000 failed to find the man. According to the Los Angeles Times, authorities believe that Park, who has not been found, faked his own death, as he “was scheduled to appear at a sentencing hearing on felony charges brought by La Palma police for drug possession, forgery, burglary and receiving stolen property.”

In 1974, British MP and former Labour Minister John Stonehouse went missing in Miami, Fla.; his clothes were discovered on the beach and he was believed to have drowned. On Christmas Eve 1974, authorities discovered him living under a different name in Australia.

Stonehouse had been involved in a number of fraudulent businesses and decided to flee from the potential criminal charges he would face. While happy to learn her husband was alive in Australia, Stonehouse’s wife was shocked to find that her husband was living with his 28-year-old secretary Sheila Buckley. Stonehouse was brought back to England, where he was sentenced to seven years in prison on charges theft, fraud and deception.

Related Topics: Fake abductions

Jennifer Wilbanks, the infamous “runaway bride,” disappeared four days before her Georgia wedding in April 2005. A few days later, she called her fiancé from Albuquerque and said she had been abducted and sexually abused. She would later admit that she had fabricated the whole thing, “because she feared she could not be the perfect wife,” USA Today reported. The wedding was eventually called off, but Wilbanks popped back into the headlines in October 2006 by suing the fiancé, John Mason, for $500,000 by selling the story of their episode and not sharing the money with her.

Former University of Wisconsin–Madison student Audrey Seiler, 20, vanished for four days in March 2004 and told police that she had been kidnapped. But, according to The Associated Press, “police concluded Seiler made up the story after obtaining a store videotape that showed her buying the knife, duct tape, rope and cold medicine she claimed her abductor used to restrain her.” Police suggested that it was “a desperate attempt to get her boyfriend’s attention.” A month later Seiler was sentenced to up to nine months in jail and fined $10,000 for her lies.

Background: Businessman Schrenker allegedly fakes his death

Schrenker’s businesses in Indiana had been under investigation for possible securities violations. His wife also recently filed for divorce on Dec. 30, according to CNN.

On Sunday, Schrenker, 38, left Indiana in his private plane, a Piper PA-46. On his way to Destin, Fla., he allegedly faked a distress call to air traffic controllers saying that his windshield imploded and he was bleeding heavily. His crashed plane was later found in a Florida swamp with the door open and no pilot to be found, according to The Guardian.

Authorities believe that Schrenker had put the plane on autopilot at about 2,000 feet and parachuted to safety, CNN reports.

Yesterday in Childersburg, Ala.—more than 200 miles from where the plane crashed—a man with Schrenker’s driver’s license told police that he had been in a canoe accident. According to The Guardian, “he was wet only from the knees down and had what appeared to be goggles made for flying.” He was last seen entering a wooded area near a hotel he had checked into.

Schrenker also headed his own aircraft aerobatics team. He displayed his flying abilities in a YouTube clip in which he describes the tricks his team can perform: “You name it, we do it.”

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