Have You Heard Of The 9/11 Fraudsters?
You've seen The heros now see the 9/11 fraudsters...
By: Selena Ledgerton Cooper on 9/12/2006
In the wake of the September 11 attacks, desperate relatives posted photos of their missing loved ones at Ground Zero and stunned fire-fighters picked through the ruins for traces of human remains on their hands and knees.
Casualty estimates varied wildly. Thousands had died, but no one knew exactly how many, or who they were. While the majority of Americans struggled to come to terms with the enormity of what had happened, a tiny handful saw in the chaos and confusion at Ground Zero a greedy opportunity.
'9/11 Liars' tells the stories of the people who lied in the wake of a national catastrophe. This documentary tracks down three of those American citizens who tried to exploit their country's darkest hour for their own personal gain.
At the time of 9/11, Allen and Cindi Gavett were living in a huge, newly-built house in the lush backwoods of Georgia. In late September 2001 Allen reported his wife Cindi missing. He claimed that she'd gone to The World Trade Center for a meeting on 9/11 and had never returned.
The reality was that Cindi Gavett was alive and well, at home, showing her husband how to fill out the claim forms and prompting him in his dealings with the insurance companies.
The Gavetts had seven life insurance policies in place and the cheques soon started coming in. Several months later the Gavetts were rumbled, their deception exposed to all the world. Arrested amidst a flurry of media attention, they were the first Americans to be charged with 9/11-related fraud.
After being sentenced to 10 years each in prison, they were released in May 2006 after serving a total of 4½ years. Five years on from 9/11 they don't deny their guilt but they do feel that the sentence they received was out of all proportion to the crime they committed.
Stephen Laskowski, a Pittsburgh man who built computer systems for nuclear power plants, reported his ex-wife Donna missing and applied to the US Government's 9/11 Victims Fund just days before the final deadline in December 2003. He claimed up to $750,000 compensation. But Donna wasn't dead, just lying low in Florida. When Stephen's deception was eventually exposed he would also claim that his ex-wife was in fact the porn star Linda Lovelace. Laskowski was found not guilty of fraud by reason of insanity.
The number of attempted 9/11 frauds is unknown, but only around two dozen people were taken to court and convicted. On Thursday, Channel 4 presents 9/11 Liars, a documentary which explores 9/11 stories of deception and the overwhelming feeling amongst the American public at large that these fraudsters had violated the sanctity of 9/11 by taking advantage of people's emotions.
IMDB listing of 9/11 Liars (2006)
Available to view or listen in the galleries.