A New York man who made international headlines after faking his own drowning in an insurance scam is now on trial for allegedly impersonating a police officer and attempting to kidnap a woman on Long Island.
Raymond Roth, 48, of Massapequa, appeared March 6 at the Nassau County Court as opening statements were heard at his trial on attempted kidnapping, coercion, burglary, police impersonation and unlawful imprisonment charges.
Authorities allege that just hours after admitting his involvement in the insurance scheme – and pleading guilty to a felony conspiracy charge – Roth tried to lure a woman into his van in Freeport. Detectives said he pulled alongside 38-year-old Claudia Colon as she walked on Church Street in Freeport and demanded she get into his white Pontiac minivan.
Assistant District Attorney Everett Witherell said Roth drove up to the single mother and began shouting demands that she get inside the van. “Get in the van or I will arrest you. I am the police,” Roth is quoted as saying in court documents.
Prosecutors said the woman ran away, but Roth followed her, driving on the sidewalk, until she darted into a check-cashing store where she worked on Sunrise Highway.
The victim’s supervisor at PLS Check Cashing, Austria Ventura, testified Thursday that Colon ran into the store crying and screaming for fellow workers to open a security door.
“Open the door, open the door, open the door,” Ventura recalled her frightened co-worker saying. “She was nervous…someone was following her.”
Witnesses also testified that about three minutes later, Roth walked into the store, claimed to be a police detective and told the employees they allowed a prostitute to enter the building and he was there to arrest her.
Roth allegedly said he “got to take her,” Ventura testified. When the employees asked him to produce police identification, Roth allegedly told them, “I am the police. I can get my people here and shut the place down.”
Prosecutors also played surveillance video from the store, which shows the situation unfold. Both Roth’s attorney and the DA’s office have stipulated that the man in the video is Raymond Roth.
Roth’s defense lawyer, Brian Davis, argued in court that his client believed Colon was a prostitute and that he was trying to solicit her. He said Roth left the business after the woman told him she wasn’t.
“He never got out [of the minivan] and tried to force her in,” Davis said. “He thought he was soliciting a prostitute.”
Outside the courtroom, Davis said he believed his client had frequented the area trying to solicit sex. He also speculated that Roth might have been drunk when the incident transpired.
Roth and his son, 22-year-old Jonathan Roth, both pleaded guilty in a plot to collect more than $400,000 in life insurance money after falsely reporting that the elder Roth went missing at sea in July 2012.
At the time, Jonathan Roth told police his father never returned from a swim at Jones Beach, which sparked a massive search that lasted several days. Roth was later found headed to a timeshare in Florida. Jonathan Roth was sentenced Wednesday to a year in jail for falsely reporting an emergency.
Raymond Roth is awaiting sentence on a fourth-degree conspiracy charge, which could land him behind bars for up to four years. If convicted in his new trial, Roth would face up to an additional 15 years in prison.
Testimony in the case is expected to continue Friday morning and Colon is supposed to take the stand.
Roth did not comment as he was led out of the courthouse in handcuffs.