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  4. A student persuaded by his friend to get his legs amputated for a $1.3 million insurance scam wound up getting only $7,200 that he now has to return: prosecutors

A student persuaded by his friend to get his legs amputated for a $1.3 million insurance scam wound up getting only $7,200 that he now has to return: prosecutors

Matthew Loh   

A student persuaded by his friend to get his legs amputated for a $1.3 million insurance scam wound up getting only $7,200 that he now has to return: prosecutors
  • A 23-year-old man in Taiwan had his legs amputated to receive a $1.3 million insurance payout, prosecutors said.
  • His friend urged him to soak his feet for 10 hours in a bucket of dry ice to get frostbite, per investigators.

A university student in Taiwan who had his legs amputated in hopes of receiving a $1.3 million insurance payout has been arrested on suspicion of fraud, local prosecutors said.

The 23-year-old, identified only by his last name Zhang, plunged his feet in a bucket of dry ice for over 10 hours to get them so badly frostbitten that he would need a double amputation, the Taiwan Criminal Investigation Bureau said in a Thursday release.

The bureau said a friend of Zhang's from high school, identified only as Liao, persuaded him to carry out the insurance scam.

Liao, also 23, suffered losses from trading cryptocurrency, and he tricked Zhang into signing a legal note obligating him to pay about $800,000, per investigators.

According to the local media outlet Taiwan News, Liao told Zhang that gangsters were pursuing him.

On January 26, 2023, Liao and Zhang rode around Taipei on a motorbike at night, wanting to present the claim that Zhang was afflicted with frostbite while riding the vehicle in the late evening, investigators said.

Just days before, Zhang bought several expensive life insurance, travel insurance, and accident insurance policies, prosecutors said.

After their motorbike ride, Zhang soaked his feet in dry ice and was admitted to hospital, per investigators.

But medical staff sensed something was amiss while assessing him, the bureau said.

His legs bore no shoe or sock marks, and his injuries appeared symmetrical, which were inconsistent with a naturally occurring frostbite injury, investigators said.

The weather on the night of January 26 was also nowhere close to below freezing, with its coldest temperature at about 42 degrees Fahrenheit, prosecutors added.

"As Taiwan is a subtropical region, cases of severe frostbite requiring amputation are unheard of due to natural climatic conditions," the bureau said in a statement.

Zhang's legs were amputated below the calf due to his frostbite injuries, but his case was reported to the authorities, per prosecutors.

When police investigated Zhang and Liao in November, they found the plastic bucket used to freeze Zhang's feet, insurance documents, a white polystyrene box for dry ice, eight mobile phones, and a tablet computer, the investigations bureau said.

Liao and Zhang were arrested on January 17 and are both charged with fraud and aiding and abetting serious injury, the bureau said.

Local media, citing prosecutors, reported that Zhang had claimed $7,200 from one insurer, but this money would be seized.

Some insurers and authorities have reported that insurance fraud rates are rising post-pandemic.

The City of London Police's Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department said reported cases of opportunistic fraud — or when someone tries to fake an injury or exaggerate a claim — surged 61% from March 2022 to April 2023.

The department's chief inspector, Tom Hill, said an increasing cost of living may push people to consider insurance fraud.

In February, South Korea amended its insurance fraud prevention law to punish offenders more severely, with up to 10 years in prison or a $37,000 fine.

The FBI estimates that an annual $400 to $700 from the average US family's insurance premiums goes to covering insurance fraud costs.


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