Criminal Justice

Typo gave away defendant’s faked death certificate; his lawyer says client duped him

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A typographical error and font changes led prosecutors to conclude that a New York man had faked his death to avoid sentencing in two cases.

Now, Robert Berger, 25, of Huntington, New York, is facing a new charge of offering a false instrument for filing, according to a July 21 press release by the Nassau County, New York, district attorney.

Berger pleaded not guilty in a video arraignment Tuesday, report the Associated Press and the New York Times.

Lawyer Meir Moza had presented the death certificate for his client to Nassau County prosecutors in October 2019, according to the press release. Moza indicated that Berger’s fiance had given him the document, which listed the cause of death as suicide.

But prosecutors noticed font changes on the document, along with a typo in the name of the New Jersey Department of Health’s Vital Statistics and Registry. The word “Registry” was misspelled as “Regsitry.”

A call to the department verified that the certificate was fraudulent.

Moza told the judge that he thinks his client used him to perpetrate a fraud. In an interview with the New York Times, Moza said he was “flabbergasted” to learn of the faked death certificate because his client had a favorable plea deal that called for only one year in prison.

“Our heart went out to the family upon learning of the deceased,” Moza told the New York Times. “It was a tragedy. And then to learn it was a hoax, we were shocked.”

Berger still faces sentencing in the two prior cases after pleading guilty to possessing a stolen Lexus and attempting to steal a pickup truck.

Berger left New York and was arrested in Pennsylvania in November 2019 on charges that included providing a false identity to law enforcement, according to the press release.

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Can you spot the forgery? An eagle-eyed NCDA prosecutor did and stopped a defendant from using a fake death certificate to avoid being sentenced on two open cases! Congrats to ADA Brian Heid for cracking open this case. You can read more about it by checking out the link in our bio. #forgery #fakedeathcertificate

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