Taiwan man freezes legs for amputation in million-dollar insurance fraud

By Minh Minh   March 17, 2024 | 08:41 pm PT
Taiwan man freezes legs for amputation in million-dollar insurance fraud
Evidence of a man sinking his feet into a pail of dry ice to claim insurance for frostbite injuries, as obtained by the Taiwanese authorities. Photo by Taiwan's Criminal Investigation Bureau
A college student in Taiwan has been charged for defrauding insurance companies by claiming his legs needed to be amputated due to frostbite injuries from a night motorcycle ride.

According to Taiwan's Criminal Investigation Bureau (CIB), the student, known as Chang, had deliberately exposed his feet to dry ice for an extended period, causing severe frostbite leading to the need for amputation.

Chang then sought compensation from eight different insurance policies, amounting to NT$41.26 million (US$1.3 million), for injuries he claimed to occur while riding his motorcycle in the cold throughout Taiwan, Taiwan News reported.

Investigation revealed that Chang, influenced by a university peer, Liao, concocted the insurance scam story after believing some gang members were after him.

Both Chang and Liao were charged of fraud and embezzlement, the Taipei District Prosecutors' Office said last week.

According to the prosecutors' documents, in Jan. 26 last year, Chang and Liao acquired dry ice and then proceeded to Liao's home, where Chang's feet were secured in a bucket of dry ice for over 10 hours, a process Liao took photos of, Taiwan News reported.

Following the exposure, Chang experienced swelling in his legs. He was admitted to the hospital on Jan. 28 and underwent an amputation below the knees on Feb. 6.

Subsequently, he submitted insurance claims and succeeded in obtaining NT$230,000 from one insurance company, The Strait Times reported.

However, other insurance companies had doubts and reported the case to the authorities as his insurance policies had been purchased shortly before the claims were made, some just a few weeks apart.

As the CIB looked into the case, it found that pictures obtained from the hospital where Chang was treated showed "symmetrical" injuries, unusual for typical frostbite victims, Newsweek reported.

The photographs suggested Chang had not been wearing socks or shoes at the time of his injuries, which investigators concluded were "man-made."

The agency also presented data from Taiwan's Central Weather Administration, which showed temperatures on the day of the incident were between 43-62.5 degrees Fahrenheit (6.1-16.9 degrees Celsius), which failed to meet the below-freezing conditions needed to cause frostbite.

A search warrant executed in November also revealed a polystyrene box that once housed the dry ice as well as the bucket Chang allegedly used, Newsweek said.

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