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Typos Spell Trouble For Man's Alleged Attempt To Fake His Own Death

It's not often that an English teacher can get quality bulletin board fodder from the local prosecutor's office. But don't be surprised if you see this document tacked up as motivational material in some classrooms next year.

It's a death certificate — at least, Nassau County, N.Y., District Attorney Madeline Singas says it was supposedto pass as a death certificate from New Jersey. The Long Island prosecutor alleges that Robert Berger, 25, tried to forge a legal document in October in a bid to fake his own death and dodge a likely jail sentence.

And the alleged ruse might well have succeeded ... if not for the typos.

"Upon inspection of the certificate by the NCDA, it was noted that font type and size changed in the document. Additionally, prosecutors observed that the word 'Registry' in the department name was misspelled as 'Regsitry' in the 'ISSUED BY' section," the office said in an announcement Tuesday.

"After calling to verify the certificate with the New Jersey Department of Health, Vital Statistics and Registry, investigators confirmed the certificate was, in fact, fraudulent."

Berger had been facing sentencing for a pair of felony vehicle theft-related charges to which he had already pleaded guilty. But in October, according to prosecutors, his attorney at the time told the court that Berger had died and submitted the bogus paperwork attesting to Berger's suicide.

Prosecutors said the attorney, Meir Moza, later attested that Berger had tricked him into unknowingly participating in the conspiracy, and he has since dropped Berger as a client. Berger's new representation, the Legal Aid Society, declined to speak with NPR about the case Wednesday.

Now, in addition to his previous legal woes, Berger faces the prospect of up to four years in prison on the felony charge of offering a false instrument for filing. He pleaded not guilty Tuesday.

"Submitting fake documents to prosecutors is always a bad idea," Singas said in a statement, "and while he'd have been caught regardless, failure to use spell check made this alleged fraud especially glaring."

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