From the New York Times:
January 9, 2008
Corpse Wheeled to Check-Cashing Store Leads to 2 Arrests
By BRUCE LAMBERT and CHRISTINE HAUSER
Even for the once-notorious Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood, it may have been a first: Two men were arrested on Tuesday after pushing a corpse, seated in an office chair, along the sidewalk to a check-cashing store to cash the dead man’s Social Security check, the police said.
When Virgilio Cintron, 66, died at his apartment at 436 West 52nd Street recently, his roommate and a friend saw an opportunity to cash his $355 check, the police said.
They did not go about it the easy way, the police said, choosing a ruse that resembled the plot of “Weekend at Bernie’s,” a film about two young men who prop up their dead employer to pretend that he is alive.
“Hell’s Kitchen has a rich history,” said Paul J. Browne, a police spokesman, “but this is one for the books.”
There was no sign of foul play in Mr. Cintron’s death, he added.
The roommate, James P. O’Hare, and his friend, David J. Dalaia, both 65 and unemployed, placed Mr. Cintron’s body in the chair and wheeled it around the corner, south along Ninth Avenue on Tuesday afternoon, the police said. The men parked the chair with the corpse in front of Pay-O-Matic at 763 Ninth Avenue, a check-cashing business that Mr. Cintron had patronized.
They went inside to present the check, but a clerk said Mr. Cintron would have to cash it himself, and asked where he was, the police said.
“He is outside,” Mr. O’Hare said, indicating the body in the chair, according to Mr. Browne.
The two men started to bring the chair inside, but it was too late.
Their sidewalk procession had already attracted the stares of passers-by who were startled by the sight of the body flopping from side to side as the two men tried to prop it up, the police said. The late Mr. Cintron was dressed in a faded black T-shirt and blue-and-white sneakers. His pants were pulled up part of the way, and his midsection was covered by a jacket, the police said. While the two men were inside the check-cashing office, a small crowd had gathered around the chair. A detective, Travis Rapp, eating a late lunch at a nearby Empanada Mama saw the crowd and notified the Midtown North station house.
Police officers and an ambulance arrived as the two men were trying to maneuver the corpse and chair into the check-cashing office.
The two men were taken into custody and questioned. The police said they were considering charging them with check-cashing fraud.
Mr. Cintron’s body was taken to a hospital morgue. The medical examiner’s office said its preliminary assessment was that he had died of natural causes within the past 24 hours.