It was a plan so crazy it almost worked: A family defrauding an insurance company out of $2 million by faking the father's death in Eastern Europe and having someone else's ashes interred at a prominent Minneapolis cemetery.
Now, the couple's son, who participated in the scheme, won't spend time in prison, but he'll have to shoulder a hefty restitution bill — even though his attorney said he wasn't in on the plan at the beginning and never profited from it.
Alkon Vorotinov, 26, of New Hope, having pleaded guilty to concealing a felony, was sentenced Tuesday in federal court in Minneapolis to three years' probation and 300 hours of community service. He also was ordered to pay back the insurance company, which paid on the claim that Igor Vorotinov had died in 2011.
Irina Vorotinov, Alkon's mother and Igor's ex-wife, is scheduled to be sentenced Thursday for her role in the plot. She pleaded guilty in May to mail fraud and a related felony count. She could face about three to four years in prison.
Igor Vorotinov, now 52, was charged in federal court in February 2015, and the case against the international fugitive remains open.
In an interview after Alkon Vorotinov's sentencing, defense attorney Matthew Mankey said that his client came late to the scheme and was left to falsely believe for more than a year that his father was dead.
"Can you imagine, your own mother, and she brings an urn back?" Mankey said. "Then dad shows up [alive]. What kind of people are these?"
In its argument filed in court before the son's sentencing, the government pushed for Alkon Vorotinov to receive a one-year prison term as well as paying his share of the restitution to cover the insurance proceeds sent to him and his mother, who were listed as beneficiaries of the policy taken out by Igor in April 2010.
Prosecutors argued that the son deserved prison time because he tried to convince investigators this spring that his father actually was the target of a kidnap-for-ransom plot that demanded Alkon Vorotinov send $200,000 to an account in Romania.
"This claim is belied by the government's banking and wiring records," the prosecution's presentencing filing read. "This story … is palpably ridiculous [and] appears to be a fabricated narrative intended, in some half-baked way, to provide some semblance of a defense for Irina."
While Alkon Vorotinov has contended that he came to the scheme after it was hatched, the government said it has its doubts, given "the defendant's recent burst of dishonesty" in connection with the supposed kidnapping of his father.
As part of the federal investigation, ashes interred in late 2011 at a Lakewood Cemetery mausoleum as being Igor Vorotinov's were removed for examination in June 2015. The human remains were tested and found not to be Igor's, authorities said.
The son agreed to cooperate with federal authorities early last year and said his father has been living in various locations in Moldova and Ukraine under the name Nikolai Patoka, a search warrant application read.
The first hint of Igor Vorotinov's staged death came in October 2011, when police in Moldova were alerted to a body in the bushes at the entrance to the village of Cojusna. A passport, hotel cards and phone numbers identified the man as Igor Vorotinov.
Irina Vorotinov traveled to Moldova, went to a morgue with a U.S. Embassy official and identified the body as Igor's. She returned to Minnesota with the ashes, held a funeral on Nov. 4, 2011, at the mausoleum and filed a death claim on the insurance policy.
Mutual of Omaha sent a $2 million check to Irina Vorotinov, who was living in Maple Grove at the time, and it was deposited in a bank account. Between March 29, 2012, and January 2015, mother and son transferred more than $1.5 million of insurance proceeds to accounts in Switzerland and Moldova.
A tipster in Moldova told an FBI agent in June 2013 that Igor Vorotinov had staged his death and was living in Ukraine under a new identity, authorities said.
Customs agents stopped Alkon Vorotinov in Detroit in November 2013 as he returned from Moldova, and digital photos on his computer dated April and May of 2013 showed his father "very much alive" more than 1½ years after his supposed death, a court filing read.
It was during that trip to Moldova, long after the death claim with the insurance company was made and the ashes were interred, that Alkon Vorotinov "showed up at a social gathering … where [Igor] was present" and saw that his father was alive, defense attorney Mankey said.
Mankey added that his client "never personally profited" from the plot and now must shoulder the entire bill for restitution because Irina is destitute and Igor remains on the lam.
"My client will be poor for the rest of his life," said Mankey, who added that Alkon Vorotinov is going through a divorce, is the father of two children and is trying to make a living in auto sales.