Doctor, unemployed woman and funeral parlour owner arrested for death fraud

2013-08-30 00:00

A CASE of stolen identity, a fraudulent death certificate and an “obliging” doctor all emerged on Wednesday when the police arrested three people on charges of fraud.

A doctor, who cannot be named until he appears in court today, was arrested for fraud along with an unemployed woman (44) and a funeral parlour owner (33). The three were arrested in the Mandeni and Empangeni areas by the Durban commercial crimes unit.

The provincial police said the unemployed woman allegedly supplied the personal details of another woman to the doctor, which he then used to issue a death certificate. The owner of a funeral parlour then allegedly signed a document declaring that he had kept the “body” in his mortuary until she was “buried”.

“The 44-year-old woman had used the death certificate to claim on policies from various insurance companies to the value of R138 000,” said police spokesperson Colonel Jay Naicker in a statement.

When the woman whose identity was stolen discovered that she had been declared dead, she reported the matter to the police. Their investigations led to the arrest of the three people.

He said, according to the fraudulent documents, the funeral parlour, based in Empangeni, had confirmed burying the woman.

“Although claiming to have kept and buried the woman, the parlour owner could, however, not point out the grave where the woman was buried.

“The doctor had claimed in documents that he had seen the body of the deceased and certified the death, but investigations revealed that the doctor did not see any deceased body — he just filled in and signed the documents,” said Naicker.

The three will appear in court today.

The rate of fraud cases being investigated against medical practitioners in the country is cause for alarm, the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) said yesterday.

HPCSA spokesperson Bertha Peters Scheepers said most concerning are the guilty verdicts and the impact this may have on the healthcare industry.

Between April 2012 and March this year, the council has given judgment in 49 fraud and theft cases involving medical practitioners in the country.

“We have taken a hard line against any form of fraudulent activity committed by healthcare practitioners registered with us,” said Scheepers, adding that they encourage the public and other stakeholders, such as medical schemes, to report allegations of fraud by healthcare practitioners for further investigation by the body.

She said various penalties are imposed on the guilty parties depending on the nature and/or severity of the transgression. These range from fines, to suspension and permanent erasure from the register, she said.

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