Ohio Man Charged With Faking His Own Death in $1-Million Insurance Scam

TIMES STAFF WRITER

An Ohio man appeared for arraignment in Los Angeles Friday on charges of faking his own death and conspiring with a business partner and a Glendale neurologist to kill a man to provide a body so they could collect $1 million worth of insurance.

Melvin Hanson, 48, was flown Thursday night from Columbus, Ohio, to appear in Los Angeles Municipal Court, but his arraignment was continued to April 27 after a public defender requested that Hanson be examined by a doctor for fatigue and physical problems.

Hanson, John Hawkins of Ohio and Dr. Richard Boggs of Glendale were charged with murder, conspiracy to commit murder for financial gain, grand theft and insurance fraud.

Prosecutors allege the three conspired to kill Ellis Greene, 32, of North Hollywood, whose body was found in Boggs' office in April, 1988. Boggs, 56, allegedly identified the body as Hanson's to defraud his insurance company.

Pretrial motions for Boggs are scheduled to be heard Monday. Jury selection is set for May 1.

Hawkins, 27, Hanson's business partner and sole heir, collected $1 million in life insurance after Hanson was reported dead, authorities contend. Despite an international manhunt, Hawkins remains at large, they said.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Albert H. MacKenzie would not comment on how the extradition of Hanson, who has been in custody in Ohio for more than a year, will affect Boggs' trial or whether it may help authorities find Hawkins. He said there is little chance that Hanson and Boggs can be tried together.

But other authorities involved in the case said Hanson's appearance is a key step in solving the alleged murder-for-insurance scheme.

"Things could change--it could be a whole new ball game," said Jerry Treadway, a fraud investigator for the state Department of Insurance. "You've got 'mister dead man' here now."

Hanson was arrested in January, 1989, and charged by Ohio prosecutors with criminal grand theft. But the charges were dropped after more extensive charges--including murder--were filed in Los Angeles, and California prosecutors requested Hanson's extradition. The Ohio Supreme Court on Thursday refused to review an appellate court decision to extradite him that was reached earlier that day.

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