Hoping to avoid a prison sentence for $11.5 million in insurance fraud, Travis Scott hatched a macabre plot. He would fake his own death.
Scott ground up some of his own wisdom teeth, drew several pints of his own blood and pulled strands of hair from his head. He mixed it all together in a plastic bag and put the bag into a stocking cap.
The bloody cap would be found in a canoe on Lake Mille Lacs in September 2011, with a shotgun blast through it and a suicide note nearby. In the note, Scott wrote that he had weighed himself down so that drowning would end his life if the shotgun did not.
Convincing as that might seem, it didn’t work.
On Monday, the 36-year-old Eden Prairie man was sentenced to 12 years and eight months in prison by U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank in St. Paul.
Scott read a lengthy statement before the sentencing, pleading for compassion and saying he would be far more productive if he were released; he could use his technological skills to reimburse the money he stole.
But Tim Rank, the federal prosecutor, said that Scott was “a manipulative person” and doubted he was remorseful.
Scott’s painstaking efforts to fake his death were detailed in a memo by his attorney Marsh Halberg.
Investigators quickly suspected the suicide was faked, said Mille Lacs County Sheriff Bruce Lindgren. Aside from the blood-splattered boat, he had left a 12-gauge shotgun in the canoe.
The shotgun was tied to a string and from the angle, it appeared Scott had shot himself in the head or upper torso. But it also appeared he had pumped the shotgun after firing.
In addition, there was no nearby vehicle that he would have had to use to get the canoe to the lake.
Then investigators learned that Scott was facing a lengthy prison sentence.
“Treated seriously, the facts didn’t add up,” said Lindgren. “It became very evident very soon this is likely an individual who wants everyone to believe he died, and had gone through an extravagant effort to make us believe it. The likelihood that he had committed suicide was remote.”
Scott had previously bought an airplane under an assumed name. In the middle of the night, he flew out of Crystal Airport, “flying below radar when possible as to not be detected,” Halberg wrote.
He flew into St. Andrew’s airport, a small unsupervised airport near Winnipeg. He had rented a hangar under a fictitious name and left a note for the hangar operator to store the plane there.
He hiked into Winnipeg, rented an apartment and bought a computer. Using Canadian death notices, he was able to obtain the birth certificate of Paul Decker, a baby who had died at 2. He had a cable TV installer come to his apartment and took a picture of the installer’s ID badge. Halberg said Scott created his own false employment ID under the name of Decker and was able to get a driver’s license.
Scott was waiting for a passport to travel to Australia or Belize when he was caught by a pharmacy, using false prescriptions to get some medications for anxiety and high blood pressure. Police were called and he was arrested.
A search of his apartment turned up $80,000 in gold coins, $30,000 in U.S. and Canadian currency, and a stun gun. They found a loaded handgun in his Jeep Liberty. Police figured out he was Travis Scott and found an arrest warrant.
Another story doubted
While jailed in Canada, Scott said he was injured when he was thrown from a second-floor balcony by inmates, trying to extort money from him. Prosecutor Rank doubted the story, saying there were no witnesses. Halberg countered that Scott is now diagnosed with dystonia, a nervous system disorder.
Scott had pleaded guilty in May 2011 to one count of wire fraud and one count of money laundering for filing a false claim with his insurance company, Zurich North America. He claimed that he sustained $9.5 million in losses when his supercomputers were damaged by a lightning strike. He also got another $1.9 million for business interruption.
He allegedly spent money on three airplanes, cars, a $700,000 house and a $300,000 yacht. Authorities seized $5.76 million from bank accounts, an airplane hangar at Flying Cloud Airport, two Piper and one Beechcraft planes, a 2008 BMW M5, a 2010 GMC Sierra, a 1981 DeLorean and a 46-foot Carver cabin cruiser.
In court on Monday, Frank said the court would oversee forfeiture of Scott’s property, finding that Scott was responsible for restitution of $11,517,772.20.