MINEOLA, N.Y. – Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas announced that a Huntington man has been charged with faking his own death and using his attorney to provide an NCDA prosecutor with a false death certificate to allegedly avoid being sentenced on two open cases.
Robert Berger, 25, was arraigned today before Judge Douglas Lerose on charges 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 certificate that this defendant used to avoid accountability for other crimes,” DA 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.”
DA Singas said that Berger faces sentencing on two felony charges in connection to two unrelated cases. On December 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 pled guilty to Attempted Grand Larceny in the Third Degree (an E felony) for attempting to steal a pickup truck.
On October 22, 2019, the cases were on before Judge Bogle for sentencing, however a representative from the firm of the defendant’s former attorney, Meir Moza, Esq. 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 and abated by the defendant’s death.
On October 28, 2019, Mr. Moza provided the NCDA with a New Jersey Death Certificate for the defendant, which stated the defendant had died of suicide by suffocation. Mr. 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 NCDA, it was noted that font type and size changed in the document. Additionally, prosecutors observed 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.
In addressing these discoveries to the Court, Mr. 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. He indicated that he would make an application to the Court regarding ending his representation of the defendant based upon these facts.
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.
Further investigation revealed the defendant had left the state and was arrested November 14, 2019, in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, and was being held at the George W. Hill Correctional Facility for charges that included providing a False Identity to Law Enforcement. He was extradited to Nassau County on January 21, 2020, so the Court could act upon his failure to appear in court and the defendant was remanded.
Assistant District Attorney Kathleen Swenson of DA Singas’ Financial Crimes Bureau is prosecuting this case. Meir Moza, Esq. originally represented the defendant. The defendant is now represented by Taryn Shechter Esq. of the Legal Aid Society of Nassau County.