Taiwan: Friend Convinces Student to Amputate Legs for $1.3M Insurance Fraud Scheme

A university student in Taiwan who had his legs amputated in the hopes of getting a $1.3 million insurance payout has been arrested on suspicion of fraud, according to local authorities.

According to the Taiwan Criminal Investigation Bureau, a 23-year-old man named Zhang submerged his feet in a pail of dry ice for almost 10 hours, resulting in severe frostbite and the need for a double amputation.

According to the bureau, Zhang’s high school acquaintance, Liao, pushed him to carry out the insurance scheme.

According to police, Liao, also 23, lost money trading bitcoin and duped Zhang into signing a legal letter requiring him to pay almost $800,000.

According to Taiwan News, Liao informed Zhang that gangsters were pursuing him.

According to investigators, Liao and Zhang went about Taipei on a motorcycle at night on January 26, 2023, with the intention of presenting the claim that Zhang suffered frostbite while riding the vehicle in the late evening.

Zhang had just purchased many pricey life, travel, and accident insurance plans, according to authorities.

According to authorities, after their motorcycle journey, Zhang bathed his feet in dry ice and was admitted to the hospital.

However, while analyzing him, medical personnel detected a problem, according to the bureau.

His legs had no shoe or sock markings, and his injuries looked to be symmetrical, which was incongruous with a naturally occurring frostbite injury, authorities added.

The weather on the night of January 26 was also not below freezing, with the coldest temperature reaching roughly 42 degrees Fahrenheit, according to prosecutors.

“As Taiwan is a subtropical region, cases of severe frostbite requiring amputation are unheard of due to natural climatic conditions,” the agency noted in a press release.

Zhang’s legs were amputated below the calf owing to frostbite damage, although the matter was reported to authorities, according to prosecutors.

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

Liao and Zhang were arrested on January 17 and charged with fraud as well as aiding and abetting serious injury, according to the agency.

According to local media and authorities, Zhang claimed $7,200 from one insurer, but the money would be seized.

Some insurers and authorities have stated that insurance fraud rates have increased following the outbreak.

The City of London Police’s Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department recorded a 61% increase in reported occurrences of opportunistic fraud (faking an injury or exaggerating a claim) between March 2022 and April 2023.

Tom Hill, the department’s chief inspector, stated that rising living costs may encourage people to commit insurance fraud.

In February, South Korea updated its insurance fraud prevention law to impose harsher penalties, including up to 10 years in prison or a $37,000 fine.

According to the FBI, the average US family’s insurance premiums cover around $400 to $700 in fraud costs each year.

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