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Faking daughter's death to go to Costa Rica? Not a good idea

January 10, 2012 |  7:22 am

Costa Rica A woman who faked her daughter's death so she could take extra holiday time was done in by the suspicious fonts on a forged death certificate, prompting an investigation that led to her firing, New York school officials say. 

Joan Barnett worked at a Manhattan high school as a parent coordinator, and according to WPIX, she earned about $37,000 a year and was eligible for vacation as well as summers off. That apparently wasn't enough for Barnett, who pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor forgery charge after confessing her lie to school investigators, according to media reports Tuesday.

According to Richard Condon, the school district's special commissioner of investigation, the probe began after Barnett presented what she said was a death certificate issued in Costa Rica in the spring of 2010, where she said her daughter had suddenly died. Condon, whose office is responsible for investigating suspected fraud and misbehavior by school employees, said Barnett's ruse was especially elaborate and included having her very-much-alive daughter call the school and claim that another daughter had suffered a heart attack in Costa Rica.

The daughter said that Barnett and the rest of the family were headed to Costa Rica immediately. After Barnett returned to her job, she handed over her daughter's death certificate, which didn't fool the school's principal.

"The fonts, there were different sized fonts," Condon told the local ABC affiliate, WABC. In addition, the name on the certificate "didn't seem to relate to Barnett."

No wonder. The certificate belonged to a man who had died several years earlier, and it had been doctored, say investigators. Even without the sloppy death notice, the scam would have been undone by the airline tickets, which Condon said had been purchased well in advance of the purported sudden death of the daughter.

It was unclear if Barnett could face charges in addition to forgery. A man in Pennsylvania was recently charged with disorderly conduct last month after falsely claiming his mother had died so he could get more vacation time. The plan unraveled when his mother called the local newspaper, which had published her obituary.


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-- Tina Susman in New York

Photo: Costa Rica is a logical location for a getaway, but be careful what you tell folks back home. Credit: Susan Spano/Los Angeles Times