A judge will decide this morning how to punish a woman who helped her husband fake his own death in Malaysia in 2003 to collect $2 million in life insurance.
At 7 p.m. Monday, after four hours of testimony and argument, U.S. District Judge Lawrence Piersol adjourned until 9:30 a.m. today instead of sentencing Rajmatee Kapadia of Texas for conspiracy to commit mail fraud.
Prosecutors want a sentence of seven to eight years in federal prison, while Kapadia's defense team urged a sentence of house arrest that would allow her to care for the diabetic man she married after collecting the insurance money from companies in Sioux Falls and California.
The sentence will represent an end to the fraudulent saga of Kapadia and her ex-husband, 46-year-old Vij Misir, who appeared Dec. 11, 2008, at the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, to renew his passport - slightly more than five years after Kapadia signed a fraudulent Malaysian death certificate for him.
In the years that followed, Kapadia maintained to insurance investigators, federal agents and the couple's own children that Misir had died at her side in the back seat of a taxi on Oct. 28, 2003, after eating bad oysters.
The lies that Kapadia told to explain the circumstances grew wilder with time, U.S. Attorney Kevin Koliner said Monday. She did not admit to knowing that her husband was still alive from the beginning until months after Misir was indicted for conspiracy and evidence emerged that she had flown overseas to visit him in Thailand on several occasions after his supposed death.
Misir received a 36-month prison sentence in April, a downward departure based on his cooperation in the case and model behavior as a prisoner. Koliner painted Kapadia as the mastermind of the fraud scheme.
Monday's sentencing hearing took further turns as the man whom Kapadia married after collecting the insurance payments took the stand to plead with Piersol to level a sentence of house arrest for the woman who introduced herself as a widow more than five years ago.
Hemet Kapadia, whose marriage to Raj Kapadia was voided when Misir re-emerged, said he needs his wife at home to recognize symptoms and administer glucose shots during his frequent bouts of "hypoglycemic unawareness," a condition that he said could kill him if left untreated overnight.
"Please know that in giving your judgment, your honor, it's a question of life or death," Hemet Kapadia said.
Raj Kapadia's lawyer also told Piersol that her client was abused and raped by her ex-husband and that she was pressured by his wealthy family to follow through with the scheme.