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Ex-soldier convicted of faking wife's death
It's unclear if wife, former teacher here, will also face charges
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In the fall of 2002, Joseph Martin Elementary School teacher Nicolette Baird was allegedly killed in a car accident while visiting family members in Trinidad. On Tuesday, her husband was convicted in a Savannah federal courtroom on three felony counts for faking her death to collect life insurance money.
A U.S. District Court jury found Ingerberth Baird, 38, guilty on one count of conspiracy, one count of making false claims against the United States and one count of mail fraud after federal prosecutors presented evidence showing he meticulously scammed the government for more than $100,000 in insurance benefits.
The former Fort Stewart soldier reported his wife dead in September 2002, after she traveled to her native Trinidad to attend a family funeral and never returned home.
Southern U.S. District Attorney Edmund Booth said days after Mrs. Baird left the country, someone identifying himself as Ingerberth Baird called the principal of Joseph Martin and said his wife had been killed in a car accident while out of the country.
Baird took a leave of absence from the Army and "traveled to Trinidad shortly after Nicolette's reported death, spending 11 days there before returning to the United States," Booth said Wednesday.
When the husband returned to the States, he used a handwritten death certificate and handwritten police report describing the accidental death to apply for life insurance benefits from both the Army and the Liberty County School System.
Baird received more than $100,000 from the Army's Family Servicemembers Group Life Insurance program. It is unclear whether he obtained benefits from the school system and information from the system's human resource department was not available Thursday.
The military benefit was deposited into a checking account, which Baird depleted in just two months.
When Baird moved to Trinidad in December 2002, Booth said it was discovered the handwritten death certificate was counterfeit and a registrar of deaths including Mrs. Baird's name did not exist.
Four months later, FBI agents found the couple living together in Cunupia, Trinidad.
Baird admitted to agents he knew in September his wife had not died in a car accident. He was then charged and extradited back to the U.S. to face charges in June 2007.
The husband could face up to five years in prison for conspiracy and false claims against the government and another 20 years for mail fraud. Each count is also punishable by a fine of up to $250,000.
Baird will remain in custody until a sentencing date is set.
Calls to ask Booth whether Mrs. Baird would be charged with a crime were not returned Thursday.
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