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17 Monday

Author missing after two girlfiends die under similar circumstances as victims in his stories

In the classic Hollywood comedy "How to Murder Your Wife," Jack Lemmon is falsely accused after creating the perfect crime for a newspaper cartoon strip.

Now law enforcement officials in New York want to question Russian-Israeli author Yevgeny Perchikov after two of his girlfriends wound up dead - in circumstances strikingly similar to the fictional accounts he wrote in a collection of murder stories.

And in a twist that evaded the Hollywood screenwriters, Perchikov collected $1 million life insurance on one of the dead women, while two other insurance companies refused to pay.

He was denied a similar payout after his second girlfriend died.

The Manhattan District Attorney has launched a fraud investigation and wants to question Perchikov, but last night the elusive author could not be found in New York or at his last known address in Israel.

And the families of the dead women have filed papers in an American court accusing Perchikov of murder.

Larysa Vasserman, 48, a divorcee who had recently immigrated to the US from Ukraine, met Perchikov when he answered a lonely hearts ad.

She died in her Brooklyn apartment in mysterious circumstances in 2002.

Tatiana Korkhova, 54, a widow who knew Perchikov from their native Russia, was discovered dead in her Manhattan home in 2004.

Doctors were unable to discover the cause of death in either case, and it transpired that both women had taken out large life insurance policies worth millions of dollars - with Perchikov as the beneficiary.

The plot thickened when the families of the dead women realized that Perchikov had written stories which explained how a killer could carry out the perfect murder and get away with it.

One was about a hit man hired to kill someone so the death would not appear to be a homicide, suicide or accident.

In the second, the main character is a doctor who relates how someone injects a victim with a drug to induce nausea and then gives a second shot to "treat" the condition - actually a fatal dose of adrenaline.

Vasserman had complained of nausea shortly before her death.

According to a wrongful death suit filed against Perchikov by her family, he falsely claimed she was pregnant.

The family also found a string of inaccuracies in the insurance applications - claims that Perchikov was a medical doctor, and that Vasserman was an art restorer earning $100,000 a year when in fact she cleaned houses.

The family sued the insurance companies, accusing them of negligence by issuing the policies based on fraudulent information.

Korkhova's family filed a similar action which claimed she was given "an overdose of norepinephrine, a method of murder which Perchikov described in detail in the short story."

Cyril Wecht, a prominent American pathologist hired by the families' lawyer, said Perchikov had written a plausible short story in which a murder victim was killed with an undetectable injection of norepinephrine.

A court in New York dismissed the suits last week, but the Manhattan district attorney is investigating whether fraud was committed.

The American police have not opened a murder inquiry.

But the mystery surrounding Perchikov's current whereabouts continues to grow.

Neighbours at his modest apartment block in Herzliya, north of Tel Aviv, said last night he spent most of his time in Russia, apparently looking after his elderly father.

"We have been separated for two years. He hasn't lived here since then," Perchikov's wife, Natalia, told reporters through her firmly locked front door.

"We don't live together anymore." She refused to answer questions about her estranged husband. "I can't tell you anything about him and I don't want to talk about him," she said.

10 Wednesday

Fraudsters invented Holocaust survival stories to steal £26m from Nazis\' real victims

Fraudsters stole $42.5million (£26million) from a hardship fund for victims of the Nazi holocaust while working for the charity set up to deliver German reparations to concentration camp survivors. 

Seventeen people are facing charges of fraud, five who worked for the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, and 12 accomplices.

As members of the Claims Conference, the fraudsters were supposed to process legitimate applications for financial aid.

Instead, they forged documents for money to channel funds to ineligible people who had invented Holocaust survival stories.

More than 5,500 fraudulent claims were approved over 16 years.

Federal prosecutors said the gang was led by Semen Domnitser, the manager of the hardship fund and a separate fund called Article 2, who personally signed off on more than 4,000 fraudulent applications.

He was assisted by former Claim Conference employees Polina Staroseletsky, Polina Berenson, Polina Breyter and Liliya Ukrainsky.

They in turn were allegedly helped by Valentina Romashova, aka Tina Rome, who worked at a specialist compensation claims company, and forger Dora Grande.

Four of the 17 arrested are currently co-operating with the FBI against Domnitser and the others. 

The plot was first uncovered in December 2009 and, with the help of the Claims Conference, has now come to court in Manhattan. 

Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara called it a 'perverse and pervasive fraud' that was 'as substantial as it is galling.'

'If ever there was a cause that you would hope and expect would be immune from base greed and criminal fraud, it would be the Claims Conference, which every day assists thousands of poor and elderly victims of Nazi persecution,' said Bharara.

'Sadly, those victim funds were themselves victimized.

'Without the extraordinary co-operation of the Claims Conference in ferreting out this alleged scheme to defraud them, it never would have been exposed.' 

The group are alleged to have falsified documents including birth certificates, passport applications and marriage licences and among the evidence against them are a series of different passport applications, all of which carry the same photograph.

On some forms applicants made it appear they had either fled the Nazis or had been incarcerated in concentration camps.

Those applications led to about $18million in false hardship fund payments of $3,600 each to almost 5,000 ineligible recipients.

Another $24.5million was paid out in $411 monthly pensions to more than 650 applicants who falsely claimed to have spent at least six months in a concentration camp or 18 months in a Jewish ghetto.

Prosecutors said many of the applicants were recruited through adverts in Russian-language newspapers and some were unwitting participants in the fraud.

The fund was set up so that victims can claim payments if they can show they survived the Holocaust and overall, 450,000 legitimate applications have been processed.

Funding comes from the German government, which has paid more than $60billion in indemnities for Nazi horrors since 1952.

The scheme was discovered when officials at the Claims Conference spotted inconsistencies between applications and after internal investigation the Claims Conference called in the FBI.

All the false pensions have now been halted and the more than 5,600 fraudulent applicants from both funds have been instructed to pay back the money.

Domnitser and two other charged employees were fired in February, while another had been previously laid off in 2006. Two more were fired yesterday this week.

'That the schemes were carried out for so long is an indicator of how well-planned and precise they were,' said Manhattan FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Janice Fedarcyk.

02 Wednesday

Bogus doctor who sedated and raped a patient is jailed for six years

A man who lied and said he was a doctor before raping a patient who was under sedation has been locked up for six years.

Michael Sorodsky, 63, who said he was a holistic healer, admitted to rape and 11 counts of aggravated sexual abuse.

However, prosecutors have said they are unhappy with the sentence, saying it is too lenient and want him to serve longer.

The court heard that the fake doctor inserted pro-biotic yoghurt into women's genitalia and had sex with one patient while she was sedated.

He charged up to $1,000 (£614) for his 'therapy sessions' in Brooklyn, New York and was arrested after the daughter of one of this patients became suspicious of the treatments her mother was receiving so went to see him, posing as a cancer sufferer.

Rimma Klots told the New York Daily News: 'What he was doing was, he was giving a gynaecological exam, and he was giving a breast exam. It wasn't necessary. It didn't feel like a doctor's examination.

'He did say inappropriate things. Something like "your breasts look good".'

He was facing 102 charges ranging from rape to fraud but that was reduced to 20 after plea bargaining.

Prosecutor Thomas Schellhammer said: 'He tells people he can cure them, and nobody gets better.' 

He treated hundreds of patients, mostly Russian immigrants, at his Sheepshead Bay office andwent went through 13 different lawyers before his conviction yesterday. In court he relied on a Russian translator, but sometimes had outbursts that were in English. At one point he said: 'It is inquisition. I am somebody pioneer. I am a scientist.'

Speaking about the sentence handed down by Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Guy Mangano, prosecution spokesman Lauren Passalacqua said: 'Our office strongly disagrees with the sentence and is exploring all possible avenues to ensure this defendant will never harm others again.'

Prosecutors are now looking at pursuing civil confinement meaning that Sorodsky will be under constant supervision when he is released.

He has already been behind bars for three years and has to complete the full six year term to complete his sentence.

He will also have 10 years of post-release supervision and must register as a sex offender.