Investigators had reason to be suspicious when claims were filed to collect nearly $2 million in life insurance on Raul Eduardo Pero.
First, one insurance company was notified of Pero's death before the date listed on his death certificate. And when Chilean authorities opened the grave where Pero allegedly was buried, there was no body in the coffin.
Pero, 58, of Los Angeles held policies worth $1.95 million from six companies in 1997 when his roommate Gloria Alcaraz told one company that he had died, California Department of Insurance officials said.
When San Francisco-based West Cost Life Insurance received what turned out to be notification of a death foretold, it refused to pay benefits.
Pero's death certificate from Santiago, Chile, showed that he had died of respiratory failure and cardiac arrest. But when the claim on his policies was filed, he was reported to have died of natural causes.
Pero used the alias Paul Terry Reed when he contacted insurance companies, state insurance officials said, telling those companies that he was Pero's stepbrother.
As the insurance companies sought to prove that Pero was alive, he called to tell them that it was all a mistake--that the claims had been submitted in error, officials said.
Investigators later learned that Pero had applied for a U.S. passport as Paul Terry Reed, the name of an 18-year-old who had died in a 1968 accident. His passport application used Reed's birth certificate and Social Security number, investigators said.
Pero, his daughter Monique Liza, 25, of Tarzana, and Alcaraz were arrested in June and charged with multiple counts of insurance fraud.
Pero and his daughter, who was listed as one of the beneficiaries, pleaded guilty to those charges Thursday in Los Angeles County Superior Court and face up to 10 years in prison and fines of more that $300,000 when they are sentenced June 28.
Alcaraz has asked for a preliminary hearing that has been scheduled for May 23.