Insurance fraudster who faked his own death gets 12 years in prison

  • Article by: RANDY FURST , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 19, 2013 - 12:02 PM

Travis Scott ground up his teeth, pulled out his hair, and extracted his blood to create a mess, but authorities figured out his ruse.

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.

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