Indictment alleges man planned to fake his death

Posted: Friday, September 27, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- A federal indictment says a man charged with insurance fraud in the death of his wife originally intended to fake his own death as part of an insurance scam.

The indictment, returned Sept. 18 in Anchorage, charges Jay Darling with four counts of wire fraud and one count of mail fraud for scheming to illegally obtain insurance proceeds.

Darling, 39, was arrested by the FBI in Oregon on Wednesday and will be returned to Alaska to face trial.

Darling and his wife, Wanda Wood, were alone on a bluff overlooking Kachemak Bay on Sept. 21, 1997, when Wood, 23, fell from the cliff to her death. They had moved to Alaska a week earlier from Mississippi.

Darling told Alaska State Troopers that Wood fell while taking pictures. The troopers continue to investigate the death as a possible homicide but have not charged Darling.

Information compiled by troopers in a review of the case this summer led to the federal investigation.

According to the indictment, Darling told a girlfriend that he had a plan to fake his death in a kayaking accident so he could have his wife collect large amounts of life insurance money.

Darling, a physical therapist, and Wood, a registered nurse, lived in Alabama and Mississippi before moving to Alaska. They had been married four months.

The indictment says Darling told another friend ''the reason he married her was to carry out his plan to collect life insurance benefits after he faked his death.''

Darling described his relationship with Wood as ''a friendship, not a romantic or sexual relationship,'' according to the indictment.

One week after their marriage, Darling applied to State Farm Insurance for a $3 million life insurance policy on himself and $500,000 on Wood. On the application, he lied about his income, inflating it twofold in an effort to qualify for such a big policy, the indictment says. However, State Farm approved only $500,000 each.

Also according to the indictment:

Three months after their marriage, Darling and Wood both lied about their income on applications for second policies of $500,000 each from Lincoln Benefit Life, which were issued.

In addition, Wood changed the beneficiary for an existing $60,000 policy on her life from her father to Darling.

In all, Wood was insured for slightly more than $1 million, with double benefits in case of accidental death. For one policy, they claimed income of $136,000 when in reality Wood earned $24,000 a year and Darling was unemployed.

According to the indictment ''It was part of the scheme that after Wanda (Wood's) death, Jay Darling would falsely claim the death was accidental.''

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