LONDON – There was something fishy about the obituary, and now its author will be going to jail.
Authorities weren't deceived when Roger Atkins sent the newspaper Fishing News his own obituary — apparently hoping that its publication would persuade the government to stop pursuing him for fishing offenses. He was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison on Thursday under his real name, Derek Atkins.
The court heard that the Marine and Fisheries Agency suspected Atkins, operating as Roger, had been failing to log fishing trips according to legal requirements. The agency was first told that Atkins had moved to Holland, and then that he was dead. His obituary was an attempt to provide written evidence to show he actually had died, officials said.
"He was a quiet family man and will be deeply missed by his family and friends," said the obituary published on June 22, 2007.
Atkins, 56, who used several aliases, pleaded guilty to five charges of obtaining property by deception, attempting to pervert the course of justice, 10 counts of fraud, failing to notify the sex offenders' register of his name change, and 21 fisheries charges brought by the Marine and Fisheries Agency.
A court in the city of Portsmouth heard that Atkins had 32 previous convictions for deception, sexual offenses and driving offenses.
"You are a lying, cunning, calculating fraudster — there's no other description for you," Judge Ian Pearson told Atkins in Portsmouth Crown Court.
Atkins' lawyer, Brian Sharman said his client had a drinking problem, and any money gained by fraud was spent on alcohol.
"This man feels broken now. He has suffered some kind of angina attack and he now looks down the barrel of being 60 and what has he got? No wife, no reputation, just time in jail for pretending he was dead," Sharman said. "Perhaps now he wishes he was."