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Long Island man sentenced for helping father fake drowning

Jonathan Roth, 23, leaves the Nassau County courthouse in handcuffs after being sentenced to a year in jail.
Photo Credit: Mike Balsamo

As a Nassau County judge ordered him jailed for a year, a Long Island man apologized Tuesday for falsely reporting his father’s drowning at Jones Beach in an alleged bid to collect more than $400,000 in life insurance money, Nassau County prosecutors said March 4.

In handcuffs and a black t-shirt, Jonathan Roth, 23, appeared Tuesday morning at the Nassau County Court to be sentenced on a charge of falsely reporting an emergency. The Massapequa man – who has spent the past five months in jail – apologized to the court for what he called a “horrific affair.”

“I realize what I did was wrong and I want to apologize,” Roth told Judge Tammy Robbins.

He pleaded guilty last March after admitting to reporting his father, Raymond Roth, missing from Jones Beach in August 2012. The elder Roth had faked his own drowning death in the Atlantic Ocean in an alleged bid to collect hundreds of thousands of dollars in life insurance benefits.

While emergency crews conducted a massive search, Raymond Roth was found alive in South Carolina and told investigators he was headed to his timeshare in Orlando, Fla. His ex-wife also allegedly found emails between her husband and Jonathan, her stepson, in which the two supposedly discussed plans to fake the father’s death.

Assistant District Attorney Everett Witherell said Tuesday that Jonathan Roth had agreed to plead guilty and cooperate with prosecutors by testifying against his father in exchange for a recommendation he not be sent to jail. However, after admitting his guilty, Roth skipped out on his sentencing and was captured last September by bounty hunters in Groveport, Ohio.

Revoking their recommendation of no jail time, prosecutors cited additional charges brought against him in Suffolk County and the fact he missed court and fled out of state. The DA’s office asked the judge to sentence him to the maximum allowable term – one year in jail.

Roth has remained behind bars since his out-of-state apprehension in late September. His defense attorney said that with the time he has already served, he should be released from jail in late May.

“Jonathan had some growing up to do and he had some learning to do,” his lawyer, Joey Jackson, said after the court appearance. “I think he’s done with crimes, he’s done with jail and he’s done with the whole criminal element.”

Raymond Roth also pleaded guilty in connection with the insurance scam. Hours after admitting his guilty in court, police allege he impersonated a cop and tried to kidnap a woman in Freeport. In that case – in which a trial is expected to begin Wednesday – he has maintained his innocence.

As part of the sentencing, the judge also signed a five-year protective order that prohibits Jonathan from contacting his stepmother. His lawyer said Jonathan is not currently on speaking terms with his father or stepmother.

In addition to the Nassau charges, Jonathan Roth has also pleaded guilty to criminal charges in Suffolk County for allegedly harassing his former girlfriend.

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