A man and four alleged accomplices have been arrested after they were reportedly caught running an elaborate scheme to fake his death to fraudulently claim a life insurance pay-out.
Prabhakar Bhimaji Waghchaure, 54, from Maharashtra’s Ahmednagar district in India, killed a homeless man with a cobra and passed his body off as his own in order to claim $5 million worth of life insurance from a US insurance firm.
A man named Praveen, who claimed to be Waghchaure’s nephew, and a local resident named Harshad Lahamge both identified the deceased as Waghchaure, who had recently returned to India from the US.
The preliminary medical report cited snakebite as the cause of death and the body was handed over to Praveen for funeral rites, UNILAD reports.
However, the scam began to unravel when insurance firm officials investigating the claim requested more information about the 54-year-old’s death.
After officers visited Waghchaure’s home, a neighbour said that they hadn’t heard of any incident with a snake but had spotted an ambulance arrive at the property at the time the incident allegedly took place.
After being contacted by police, Lahamge claimed Praveen had died from coronavirus.
After not being able to track down any of Waghchaure’s relatives, police looked through his phone records and discovered that he was still alive, having posed as his ‘nephew’ Praveen at the hospital and had begun living at a new address.
Superintendent Manoj Patil said: “The insurance claims investigator had started digging deep into the claim on Waghchaure’s death because he had fraudulently claimed the death of his wife for a life insurance claim in 2017.
"His wife is alive… Waghchaure and other conspirators hatched an elaborate plan. Probe has revealed that they procured a cobra from a snake rescuer.
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"They found a destitute person, with similar looks as that of Waghchaure, and had killed him with the bite of the cobra. Waghchaure himself posed as his nephew Praveen and reported the snakebite death.”
The dead man has since been identified as 50-year-old Navnath Yashwant Aanap.
The victim had been forced to accompany Waghchaure to a secluded location, where a snake handler named Harish Kulal induced the snake to fatally bite Aanap on his toe.
His body was then taken to Waghchaure’s home, at which point the accused called an ambulance.
Two relatives, Sandeep Talekar and Prashant Chaudhary, were the ones who found Aanap and Lahamge, with Lahamge managing to get hold of the cobra from a snake rescuer.
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