NORFOLK, Va. - A Maryland man who faked his death by jumping into Chesapeake Bay was sentenced yesterday to seven years in federal prison for conspiracy and communicating a false distress signal.
Larry Deffenbaugh, who was arrested in Texas last year after his case appeared on the TV show “America’s Most Wanted,’’ said his punishment for his May conviction amounted to a death sentence because he has become ill since his arrest and he already faces a 9-year prison sentence in Maryland.
He is 60 years old and uses a wheelchair.
Deffenbaugh’s brother reported him missing in May 2009 from a rented fishing boat off Virginia Beach, two days before he was to be sentenced on a probation violation in Maryland. Deffenbaugh, the former owner of a cemetery, Southern Memorial Gardens, had been convicted of bilking at least 500 people out of cemetery services.
Prosecutors said Deffenbaugh told his family he did not want to go to prison and had been planning to disappear for days, selling his car to his girlfriend and scouting out a location to fake his death
Deffenbaugh is a trained diver and ship captain who was in good physical condition at the time of his disappearance.
Coast Guard crews searched for Deffenbaugh for 15 hours using cutters, small boats, and a helicopter.