Status: Undetermined (I refuse to give him the benefit of the doubt)
Ken Lay was reported dead on Wednesday. The medical examiner ruled the cause of death to be severe coronary disease. But almost as soon as word of his death hit the internet, the conspiracy theories started. Scott Adams summed up what many were thinking in his Dilbert Blog
Does it seem suspicious to you that ex-Enron CEO Ken Lay died right before they could put his guilty ass behind bars? I wonder how many doctors you need to bribe to fake your own death. Is one enough? Or is there some special double-checking that the police do if the guy is heading for prison? I’m sure there’s a body, but I wonder if it’s his. I have a bad feeling that some pizza delivery guy’s last words to his coworkers were “Hey, I have a delivery to that Enron guy’s house! Wish me luck!”
Reality Rule 16.1 from Hippo Eats Dwarf
seems appropriate here: For some, death is merely a career move.
The timing of Lay's death is what makes it so suspicious. It's not just that he died before serving any time. He died before the appeals process was completed and before being sentenced. Therefore, his convictions could be erased, severely complicating efforts to seize his assets. As the New York Times reports
Mr. Lay's death effectively voids the guilty verdict against him, temporarily thwarting the federal government's efforts to seize his remaining real estate and financial assets, legal experts say. "The death of Mr. Lay in all likelihood will render the government's hard-fought victory null," said Christopher Bebel, a former federal prosecutor based here who specializes in securities fraud...
Any life insurance policies bought by Mr. Lay may also be shielded from federal seizure efforts since state laws normally cover such payments. While jurors found Mr. Lay guilty, his death may also complicate any efforts to go after life insurance proceeds, even if the original policies were acquired with ill-gotten gains.
In other words, Lay picked the perfect time to die. Of course, this doesn't mean he faked his death. It just makes his death seem awfully convenient for him (if he's still alive) and his family. (There's also a theory that he was murdered
... or perhaps he could have committed suicide by using drugs to induce heart failure. I believe there are drugs capable of doing this.)
Lay isn't the first multi-millionaire to be suspected of faking his death. In 1932 billionaire Swedish businessman (and mega-swindler) Ivar Kreuger
apparently committed suicide by shooting himself. But a rumor soon spread that he had actually faked his death and fled to Indonesia. Supposedly Kreuger's tobacconist later received from Sumatra a large order for custom-made Havana cigars. The tobacconist said that Kreuger was the only person who would have known how to place that order.
There's also the case of Michael de Guzman, geologist for Bre-X
, and perpetrator of one of the greatest mining frauds in history. In March 1997 de Guzman supposedly committed suicide by jumping from a helicopter into the Indonesian jungle. But his corpse could never be positively identified, and last year one of his widows claimed that he had recently sent her money
. So he might very well still be alive. Perhaps he's hiding out somewhere in an Indonesian resort with Ken Lay.
Oh, and this photo of Ken Lay's tombstone that's doing the rounds is obviously fake (1964-2006??? That would have made him 42). Last year the same picture was used to represent Johnnie Cochran's tombstone