MINEOLA, N.Y. (AP) — A New York man charged with falsely reporting his father had drowned in an alleged insurance scam was abused, manipulated and coerced into participating in the scheme, his attorney said Tuesday.
Jonathan Roth, 22, has pleaded not guilty to charges including conspiracy to commit insurance fraud after reporting that his father, Raymond Roth, had drowned last month at Jones Beach in New York. The elder Roth was later reported to be in Florida and got a speeding ticket in South Carolina.
He is receiving psychiatric treatment at an undisclosed hospital on New York's Long Island, his lawyer said, but is expected to be released Wednesday. Raymond Roth, 47, expects to then be immediately arrested on similar charges to those facing his son, said attorney Brian Davis.
Jonathan Roth, who was freed Monday on $10,000 bond, had a brief court appearance Tuesday; the case was postponed until Sept. 19. Attorney Joey Jackson did not allow his client to speak with reporters, but alleged he had a strained relationship with his father and was not a willing participant in the ruse.
"This case in and of itself is about three things in my mind: It's about coercion, it's about the abuse we talked about, and it's about manipulation," he said.
Jackson had made allusions to a prior case involving an unnamed Child Protective Services agency but did not elaborate. "When the facts come out as to how this thing ultimately came about, in addition to the past history that his father, just the things his father's done to him over the course of time, it's going to be obvious why this thing happened," Jackson said.
Nassau County Social Services Commissioner John Imhof said because of "stringent confidentiality and privacy requirements," he could not say whether Child Protective Services has ever investigated the Roths.
"I don't know what kind of abuse they're talking about," said Davis, the elder Roth's attorney. "All I know in speaking to his family about this is that it was almost a kind of buddy-buddy relationship and not a father-and-son relationship. I don't know if he had a heavy hand while the kid was growing up, but the kid's 22 now."
Days after his disappearance, Raymond Roth was reported to be at a resort in Orlando, Fla. On Aug. 2, he was stopped going 90 mph in Santee, S.C. Roth said he was returning to New York, and the officer let him proceed north; he never showed for a planned meeting with police and his attorney later revealed he instead had been admitted to a hospital for depression.
Investigators wrote in court papers that Jonathan Roth "was fully aware that his father never walked into the water and had in fact driven off in his own personal vehicle." He faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.
Raymond Roth's wife, Evana, has told reporters that her husband staged the disappearance without her knowledge. She also implicated her stepson in the scheme, distributing emails that she said were on a family computer in their Massapequa home. In one dated the day before he vanished, the elder Roth instructs his son to contact him at an Orlando, Fla., resort to update him on developments following his disappearance.
Evana Roth, 45, said her husband had recently been fired from his job at a telecommunications company in New York City.