Funeral director who faked clients’ deaths for $400,000 in insurance warns SMEs to let their business die quietly

Dan Wood /

Business owners should never look to fraud as a solution to financial hardship.

A South Australian former funeral director, who admitted to obtaining $425,595 from insurers by faking his client’s deaths, has warned business owners to “swallow your pride and admit when things are not going well” instead of committing fraud.

Robin George Knight pleaded guilty to 22 counts of deception and one count of attempting deception in the Holden Hill Magistrates Court in Adelaide, according to the Adelaide Advertiser.

Representing himself in court, Knight admitted to making 119 false claims to insurers Christian Development Fund, Key Invest and Life Plan, and obtaining $425,595 from prepaid funeral bonds from clients he said had died when they had not. The bonds could only be accessed in the event of the client’s death.

The Adelaide Advertiser reports the court heard Knight, the former director of Knight Brenton James Funeral Directors, amended old medical certificates to attempt to prove to insurers his clients were dead and faked the signature of his business partner.

The court heard the fraud unravelled when insurers contacted one client about her “dead” mother, who was actually alive.

Knight told the court he falsely obtained the money to “keep the business afloat”, and did not use it to fund a lavish lifestyle.

On the steps of the court after the hearing, he told the media other business owners should learn from his mistakes.

“Swallow your pride and admit when things are not going well and take action because once you start this sort of situation, it’s obviously very difficult to get out,” Knight said.

Knight has been granted bail and will appear in the Adelaide Magistrates Court in March.

Fraud expert Brett Warfield of Warfield and Associates told SmartCompany the insurers would have had trouble identifying fraud in the “extraordinary” case.

“Ultimately if the proof of death is a death certificate, and a funeral director has the ability to be able to produce something that looks exactly the same, it would be difficult for the insurers,” says Warfield.

Warfield says business owners should never look to fraud as a solution to financial hardship.

“The biggest warning here is although you might be in desperate situation, a business going under is a lot different from criminal charges and going to jail,” he says.

“If your business is at that point, go get good, professional accounting advice and do not take the shortcut with fraud. If you start to commit fraud on any deeper scale, bigger than $100,000, you’ll likely see time in jail.”

SmartCompany attempted to contact both Knight and Knight Brenton James Funeral Directors but was unable to do so prior to publication.