Cops: Guy Had His Legs Amputated in Insurance Scam

Taiwanese pair claimed cold temperatures caused frostbite requiring amputation; investigators say it was dry ice
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 20, 2024 7:53 AM CDT
Cops: Insurance Scam Costs Man Both Legs
Dry ice in production.   (Getty Images/der_makabere)

An alleged plot between friends to collect a more than $1 million insurance payout failed, leaving the pair no better for having frozen one man's legs to the point of requiring amputation, prosecutors say. Indeed, the two Taiwanese college students, identified as Zhang and Liao, both 23, are now facing criminal fraud charges in part because, as investigators note, "Taiwan is a subtropical region, and cases of severe frostbite requiring amputation due to natural climate factors in the flatlands are unheard of." Prosecutors claim Zhang took out eight insurance policies in the days before immersing his legs in a bucket of dry ice for about 10 hours, per Taiwan News. At a hospital, he allegedly claimed to have suffered from extreme cold while riding on a scooter with Liao at night.

Hospital staff didn't buy it. It was well above freezing in Taipei on Jan. 26, 2023, the day Zhang claimed to have been riding around the city, the Taiwan Criminal Investigation Bureau says in a Thursday release. Staff also noted Zhang's feet had frostbite that was "neat and symmetrical" with "no socks or shoe marks," per People. They amputated Zhang's legs below the calf as required but reported the case to police, who seized a polystyrene box for dry ice and a plastic bucket as part of their investigation, per Business Insider. Meanwhile, Zhang received only a $7,200 insurance payout. Insurance providers denied additional claims as the timing so soon after the policies went into effect raised their suspicions.

That $7,200 will now be seized, per People. Both Zhang and Liao were arrested Jan. 17, per Business Insider. They're charged with fraud and aiding and abetting serious injury. Prosecutors allege Liao was an active participant. After losing money trading cryptocurrency, he allegedly persuaded Zhang into action, claiming gang members were after him, and tricked him into signing a note saying he owed Liao nearly $800,000, per People. Prosecutors allege Liao then used cable ties to restrain Zhang to a chair and took photos and videos of him with his feet immersed in dry ice, per Taiwan News. The outlet adds police ultimately found the pair did ride on a scooter in Taipei on the date in question. However, they say it was a trip to buy dry ice. (More insurance fraud stories.)

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