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Richard Pryde Boggs (1933 – March 6, 2003) was a California neurologist who was sentenced to life in prison in 1990 for his part in an insurance scheme that involved murdering a man and then giving the victim another person's identity in order to collect a $1.5 million life insurance policy.
Murder and insurance scam
Boggs lured drunk Ellis Henry Greene, 32, into his office, disabled him with a stun gun, and suffocated him with the help of conspirator Melvin Eugene Hanson on April 16, 1988. The doctor then called paramedics, and falsely identified Greene as Hanson. He had forged medical records, and included the real Hanson's birth certificate and credit cards on Greene's body. The detectives called to the scene were initially suspicious of Boggs' story. They reasoned that doctors don't usually handle patients that early in the morning, and the temperature of the body couldn't correspond to the time of death given by Boggs; it was also pointed out on a "Forensic Files" episode that Boggs wouldn't be expected to be treating a heart patient. The coroner's report however ruled that the death was due to a heart attack caused by natural causes. Hanson's business partner John Hawkins (in a Columbus, Ohio clothing store chain "Just Sweats") was called in to identify the body, which he did. Unknown to the police, Hawkins was working with Boggs and Hanson.
The case was officially closed, and the body was quickly cremated at the behest of Hawkins. Hawkins then collected the million dollar life insurance policy he had taken out on Hanson, cleaned out his bank accounts and disappeared. Hanson also went into hiding, adopting a new identity as "Wolfgang Von Snowden." Meanwhile, Farmers Insurance, which had had to pay out the insurance policy, obtained "Melvin Hanson"'s driver's license to compare to the picture of the body that was found. They were checking for possible insurance fraud. What they found led them to hire a private investigator to further investigate the case. Also, Columbus Dispatch reporters Robin Yocum and Catherine Candisky began to look into the case as well as the California Department of Insurance Fraud Division (CDI) and Glendale Police Department. Mike Jones was the lead investigator assigned at CDI. Recognizing that Hanson's driver license photo did not match the coroner's photo of the deceased at Bogg's office, Jones had assistance from CDI Investigator Kathy Scholz in reviewing missing person's reports in the LA area. Investigator Scholz located the missing person report of Ellis Greene and soon CDI investigators had positively identified the murder victim.
Hanson was arrested while arriving at DFW Airport from Acapulco, Mexico. He was detained by an alert US Customs Officer who detected Hanson was carrying a large amount of US Currency. Hanson was then referred to US Customs Office of Enforcement. A Special Agent began an interrogation of Hanson at that point and discovered numerous inconsistencies in Hanson's story and paperwork he was travelling with. In Hanson's knapsack, which Customs officials searched, they found 14 thousand dollars of undeclared cash, several identifications including the California driver license of Ellis Greene were found and a book entitled "How To Create A New Identity" which had been taken from the Dade County library. They made contact with the FBI in Columbus and confirmed an outstanding arrest warrant and Hanson was placed under arrest. Also from Forensic Files, the scars that Hanson got from numerous plastic surgeries and hair transplants were still noticeable.
Hawkins proved harder to find as he managed to leave the United States. After an appearance on America's Most Wanted, and John Walsh profiling his segment on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Hawkins was captured off Sardinia by Italian police. Both Boggs and Hanson were convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. Hawkins was convicted of conspiracy to murder and a maximum of 25 years in prison. He got a lighter sentence as he hadn't been involved in the actual murder, though investigators suspected he was the brains of the scheme.
As a side note the murder trial occurred concurrently with the McMartin Preschool molestation trial in the Los Angeles County Courthouse. California Department of Insurance Fraud Division Investigators Mike Jones and Jerry Treadway worked closely with Glendale Police Detective Jon Perkins to make this case. The 1992 book "Cheating Death" by Edwin Chen provides a thorough and accurate recap of the entire murder investigation. Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Al Mackenzie and Deputy DA Mike Jones (former investigator on the case) prosecuted Dr. Richard P. Boggs in 1989.
Yocum and Candisky published a book, Insured for Murder detailing the case. Episodes of the truTV shows Forensic Files and Murder By The Book featured the story, the latter of which guest starred Jonathan Kellerman.
In 1992 Edwin Chen, an LA Times investigative reporter, wrote a book entitled "Cheating Death", which provides an in depth review of the almost perfect million-dollar murder though it was published before Hawkins was arrested.
Unsolved Mysteries and America's Most Wanted profiled the case when Hawkins was still a fugitive of justice. It was through The Oprah Winfrey Show, profiling John Walsh's America's Most Wanted episodes, that an international viewer provided the critical lead for law enforcement to apprehend John Hawkins in Italy. Vanity Fair, 1992, also published an expose on the case.
- "The trail of a hustler: how an international manhunt finally brought down John Hawkins, the former Studio 54 party boy who now faces trial in the U.S. for murder one". Faqs.org. Retrieved 2012-11-23.
- "'Blood, Lies & Alibis': Elaborate Million Dollar Insurance Fraud 'Almost The Perfect' Crime' (VIDEO)". Huffingtonpost.com. 2012-10-30. Retrieved 2012-11-23.
- By Bill KentPublished: July 19, 1992 (1992-07-19). "IN SHORT: NONFICTION - New York Times". Nytimes.com. Retrieved 2012-11-23.