Pennsylvania Man Returns From the Dead to Face Fraud Charges

January 12, 2001

A former Easton, Penn. man and his wife have been returned to Lehigh County from Thailand to face charges of allegedly conspiring to steal nearly $1.6 million from insurance companies by faking the husband’s death and then fleeing to Bangkok, Thailand. Lee L. Kongsiri, 62, and his wife, Phatcha Kongsiri, 63, returned to the United States in the custody of U. S. Marshals and agents from the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Mike Fisher said agents of his Insurance Fraud Section filed criminal charges against the Kongsiris on Jan. 13, 1999. They were arrested by the Thai Royal Police on Nov. 14, 1999. Upon their arrest, the Thai government seized 28 million baht from the Kongsiris, which is nearly $643,811 in U.S. dollars.

Since their arrest, the Kongsiris have remained in a Bangkok prison, where they fought extradition to the United States. The Thai Office of Attorney General sought to extradite the Kongsiris. That effort was approved by the court in September, with the court ordering them to leave the country by Jan. 12.

Fisher noted that the Kongsiris still face pending forgery charges in Thailand for allegedly providing Thai officials with phony documents claiming that Lee Kongsiri was dead. Fisher said his prosecutors and agents in 1999 presented evidence of the Kongsiri’s alleged criminal activity before the Twelfth Statewide Investigating Grand Jury, which recommended that he file criminal charges.

Fisher said the grand jury found that, between December 1986 and December 1993, Lee Kongsiri purchased $1,886,493 in life insurance policies from nine insurance companies. The grand jury found that, between November 1995 and December 1996, Phatcha Kongsiri attempted to collect the insurance money, claiming that her husband died on Sept. 28, 1995, while visiting Thailand.

In order to collect on the insurance policies, Fisher said, the grand jury found that Phatcha Kongsiri provided the insurance companies with fraudulent documentation, including a death certificate and a Death of American Citizen Abroad report. Fisher said $1,586,947 was collected on Lee Kongsiri’s policies.

Two insurance companies, Allstate and Prudential, suspected fraud and did not pay on the claims. Fisher said the grand jury learned that the in-laws of one of the Kongsiris’ sons visited Thailand for their 35th wedding anniversary and were allegedly met at the Bangkok airport by Lee and Phatcha Kongsiri.

The couple, not knowing that Lee Kongsiri had allegedly staged his death, filmed the meeting with the Kongsiri’s at the airport on their camcorder. They also filmed the couple at other times during their visit. Fisher said the film was introduced as evidence before the grand jury. The grand jury also learned that the couple stayed at the Kongsiris’ condo in Bangkok and at the Kongsiris’ second condo in Phet Buri, Thailand.

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