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Man who allegedly tried to fake his own death outed by typo, prosecutors say

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Johnrob/iStockBy MEREDITH DELISO, ABC News

(NEW YORK) — A New York man who allegedly faked his own death last year in an attempt to avoid sentencing on felony charges was ultimately thwarted by a typo on his forged death certificate, prosecutors said this week.

Robert Berger, 25, of Huntington, Long Island, was charged Tuesday with offering a false instrument for filing, a felony.

Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas said the typo, along with formatting errors, alerted officials that Berger allegedly forged the death certificate “to avoid accountability for other crimes.”

“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,” she said.

According to Singas, Berger was supposed to be sentenced in Nassau County on Oct. 22, 2019, after pleading guilty to two felony charges, but then his attorney’s office notified the court that Berger had died. The following week, his then-attorney provided the Nassau County District Attorney with a New Jersey death certificate in order to dismiss the pending sentences, officials said. The death certificate stated that Berger had died of suicide by suffocation one month prior, on Sept. 21.

Upon inspection, prosecutors noticed discrepancies in the font type and size throughout the document, and, glaringly, that the word “Registry” was misspelled as “Regsitry” for the issuer, the New Jersey Department of Health, Office of Vital Statistics and Registry. A call to the department confirmed that the certificate was fraudulent, officials said.

According to prosecutors, Berger’s fiancée allegedly gave the lawyer the death certificate. Upon the discovery of the alleged forgery, the lawyer, who told the court he believed he was used to perpetrate fraud, ended his representation, officials said. The district attorney did not indicate in a press release if the fiancée has also been charged in the alleged forgery scheme.

While supposedly dead, Berger was arrested on Nov. 14, 2019, in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, for charges including providing a false identity to law enforcement, Nassau County prosecutors said. He was being held at the George W. Hill Correctional Facility and was extradited to Nassau County earlier this year and remanded, officials said.

Berger faces up to four years in prison for the forgery charge. His bail was set at $1 at his arraignment on Tuesday, but he remains remanded on the two prior charges — possession of a stolen Lexus and attempted grand larceny of a truck — prosecutors said. He has not entered a plea for the latest charge and is due back in court on July 29.

ABC News was unable to reach the public defender who is now representing his cases.

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