Sometimes It Takes Money to Make Money (From Insurance Fraud)

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News reports that begin, "It was supposed to be the perfect crime," are almost always worth reading. You know that at the very least, the crime wasn't perfect, because you're about to read about it, and it's very possible that it was spectacularly flawed. I'm not sure this one counts as "spectacular," but it justified the read.

The plan for this perfect crime was to take a fishing boat out to sea and sink it in order to collect $400,000 in insurance money. The owner hired a captain and crew to do the job, although I'm not entirely sure why you would need a "captain" for a trip that involves going 90 miles out to sea and then a couple of miles straight down. Probably he was hired to make the voyage look legit, which is the same reason the conspirators falsified the ship's log to say that 50 fish weighing 3,000 pounds had been caught before the "accident."

I had always assumed that ship's logs were kept on the ship, but I guess that doesn't make much sense if you need to have the records around later if the ship sinks. (Of course, most of my knowledge of how ships work is based on Star Trek.) But if the log is kept on shore and updated after each voyage, then why falsify the log for a ship that isn't coming back? Would a crew really remember how many fish they caught before the ship went down? Or were they going to claim the captain updated them by radio after every fish?


How things were supposed to look

Well, that's at least potentially stupid, but I don't know enough about sailing to know for sure. I do know something about physics, though, or at least enough to know that if you're going to sink something and claim the insurance money, you should include in your plan a way to make sure the thing sinks.

According to the report, the plan here was just to pump seawater into the ship until it went down. Ordinarily, that might be fine; filling ships with seawater has certainly worked before. But in this case, the owner, knowing this was going to be a one-way trip, tried to save money by putting in just enough fuel to get out there. Fuel is lighter than water, but heavier than air, and apparently the effect of the empty tanks was enough to leave the boat "low in the water, but bobbing like a cork when the Coast Guard showed up." That meant the Coast Guard was able to examine the boat and notice the lack of fuel, as well as the food and other supplies necessary for a long fishing trip. The owner had of course been too cheap to buy any of that, either.

Also, there were no fish. Although that evidence might have been able to swim away, under the circumstances.

The defendants pleaded guilty, and the two crew members were sentenced yesterday to 30 months each. The owner faces up to 10 years. Don't know what this means for their future in the shipping industry. I guess they could bill themselves as the crew that "couldn't sink a ship if they tried."