Rajmatee Kapadia of Florida argued in court for more than a year with a Sioux Falls insurance company that her husband, Vij Misir, really had died after eating bad oysters during a family vacation in Malaysia in 2003.
Eventually, Kapadia settled the case for $2 million, backed up by official documents from Malaysia, as well as her claims she had seen him cremated and spread his ashes.
But some still weren’t buying the story.
“The truth is, I never believed he was dead,” said Jay Blumenkopf, the lawyer who represented Sioux Falls-based Midland National Life in the lawsuit. “Sometimes you settle cases for business reasons, but I never believed he was dead.”
That’s the reason he wasn’t surprised when FBI agents called him last December and told him Misir had walked into the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, and asked to renew his passport.
Today, Misir, 45, sits in the Minnehaha County Jail after FBI agents found and arrested him in Guam in November, and both he and his wife face federal charges in the faked death.
Richard Ivers, the Coral Springs, Fla., lawyer who represented Kapadia, said he hadn’t spoken with her since the settlement and was surprised to hear that his former client and the husband he thought was dead had been indicted for fraud.
“I don’t know anything to say about that,” Ivers said. “I’m sort of taken aback. It’s gonna take me a little while to digest.
“She claimed that he ate some bad oysters and died in a taxi,” he said.
Kapadia, who lives with the couple’s children in League City, Texas, sued Midland National Life and West Coast Life Insurance of San Francisco in 2004 after their investigators questioned the claim that her husband had died in Malaysia during the vacation in October 2003.
Misir had taken out two separate $2 million life insurance policies from Midland and another $3 million from West Coast Life between July 2001 and August 2002, according to court documents. The policies listed Kapadia as the sole beneficiary.
A death certificate was issued for Misir in 2005 when Blumenkopf and lawyers for West Coast Life settled Kapadia’s claim.
The companies chose to settle because Kapadia had a strong case, Blumenkopf said. She had a death certificate and police reports from Malaysia in addition to her cremation claims.
The family decided to cremate him immediately because of their religious beliefs, she said during the 2004 investigation.
“… my father-in-law did the service for my husband because he’s a Hindu priest,” Kapadia said.
She also told investigators that a friend of her husband’s took her family out on a river in Thailand to scatter her husband’s ashes.
Now Misir and Kapadia, 39, each face up to 20 years in prison on charges of conspiracy to commit mail fraud in U.S. District Court in Sioux Falls.
Misir pleaded not guilty in Sioux Falls on Dec. 3 and is being held without bond. Kapadia pleaded not guilty Nov. 23 and was released after posting $10,000 of a $2 million bond on the condition she relinquish her U.S. passport and show up for all her court dates.
Midland will file a civil lawsuit to get its portion of the $2 million settlement back within the next 30 days, Blumenkopf said.