Smoke filled the Beechcraft Baron airplane 30 miles off the Louisiana coast … going down fast. Pilot Theodore R. Wright III radioed for help when flames spat out from behind the instrument panel, melting the windshield. He bellied the plane into the ocean — a cool-headed, life-saving maneuver. Or so Wright claimed.
Ditching the Beechcraft actually was a ditzy insurance hoax — Wright crash- landed and sank it on purpose. The deep-six dunking jumpstarted a doomed plot to wreck the Beechcraft … another plane … a Lamborghini … and 45-foot sailboat — all for nearly $940,000 of inflated insurance claims.
It was a perfect — and perfectly doomed — trifecta of insurance scams by land, sea and air.
Wright’s gang bought the luckless machines at super-low prices, then deceptively over-insured and destroyed them for inflated insurance claims. He also threw in a bogus $100,000 lawsuit to sweeten the payday.
First came his Beechcraft. The craft sank after landing. Wright and his passenger Raymond Fosdick free-floated in yellow life vests for three hours, seeming marvels of cool-headed calm in 3,000 feet of dangerous Gulf Coast water. Wright even recorded the life-and-death ordeal on his iPad while they floated helplessly in the choppy waters. A Coast Guard helicopter scooped them up just before nightfall.
Wright had bought the plane for just $46,000, yet insured it for nearly twice that.
Wright made himself a media sensation. His seeming survival against all odds earned Wright interviews on The Today Show and other national news outlets. The iPad footage and TV interviews were great theater — all to make the crash seem so real that the insurer would pay out.
Wright and Fosdick milked the scam for another $100,000 with a bogus lawsuit. Fosdick falsely sued him for supposed injuries from the crash. They secretly set up the lawsuit, then divided the settlement money.
Next on the hit list … the Lamborghini Gallardo. Wright bought the salvaged machine for $76,000, then drove it into a ditch full of water. The Lamborghini flooded and was ruined. Bad accident, Wright lied to his insurer. He received a nicely profitable $169,554 of insurance money.
A Cessna 500 aircraft took the next fall. Wright had Fosdick burn the plane to a metallic crisp in Texas. It was a total loss, earning a nifty $440,000 of insurance money — more than double their purchase price.
Last came the ill-fated luxury sailboat intended for lengthy deep-water sailing. Wright bought the Hunter Passage for $50,150, yet insured it for $195,000. He had a crony damage and partially sink the boat at its marina dock in Ko Olina, Hawaii. Wright even pretended he was the owner when phoning the insurance company to make the claim. The payout was a $180,023 windfall that more than tripled what they paid for the boat.
Wright’s showboating took him down. He made too many people pay too much attention — including investigators and law enforcement. Clues piled up. Not the least of which was a course Wright took to learn how to crash-land planes in water just a week before deep-sixing his Beechcraft.
Wright and his gang were convicted. When he’s sentenced, he’ll have up to 20 years in federal prison to rethink how his daffy insurance cons flew too high, went too far, and fell too fast.