The curious case of Oksana, the Ukrainian woman accused of faking her death

Aimee Ambrose
York Dispatch

A Dallastown woman is due back in court soon after being accused of faking her death in Ukraine three years ago so her family could collect $1.25 million in life insurance benefits.

On top of that alleged scheme, for which her husband and son are also charged, Oksana Brown also faces charges in a retail theft case and of once making false accusations against a state police trooper. The latter case was resurrected after Brown revealed she was still alive in 2020.

Oksana Brown in an April 2018 mugshot.

Brown's current attorney, John McMahon Jr. of Philadelphia, did not return messages seeking comment. Nor could Brown be reached for comment.

Her former attorney, David Mueller, declined to comment on the case.

Court records show Brown, 47, has five cases on the trial list for the week of Sept. 8 in the courtroom of York County Common Pleas Judge Maria Musti Cook.

Brown allegedly left the U.S. for Ukraine on Sept. 28, 2019, after she spent about a month, between late December 2018 and January 2019, applying for life insurance policies through State Farm, Credit Union National Association, Gerber Life Insurance and Assurity Life Insurance. Her husband, Paul Brown, and son, Anatoliy, were named as beneficiaries, according to the York County Detectives Bureau in criminal complaints in two of the cases.

The policies, which included term and accidental death and dismemberment, initially totaled $950,000. But Brown allegedly updated the CUNA policy to add another $300,000 in coverage in May 2019, bringing the total up to $1.25 million, detectives said.

More:Searching for Wilder: Dog's owner still has hope of finding stolen pet

More:Man dies after construction equipment rolled onto him: coroner

More:Argument after a wedding leaves one brother dead as the other faces trial

One month after she went overseas, on Oct. 27, 2019, Oksana was reported dead in Ukraine. Detectives allege Paul began the process of filing claims on the insurance policies, starting with Assurity that November.

They said he sent copies of a Ukrainian death certificate and a U.S. State Department report on Oksana’s death, and he later listed food poisoning as the cause on a form, according to the complaints.

Oksana’s attorney at the time, Mueller, also submitted documents to establish her death, and the York County District Attorney’s Office responded by filing a motion to dismiss the false accusation case, documents show. The case had still been active when she traveled to Ukraine.

Paul made several calls to the insurance companies through early 2020. When he contacted State Farm that February, the agency denied the claim because detectives said Oksana falsely stated she didn’t have a criminal history when she applied for a $500,000 policy there. That information played a role in the company’s decision to issue the policy, a complaint shows.

But on May 4 2020, Paul reversed course and allegedly called the other three insurance companies to cancel the claims. He told Gerber he didn’t need the money. Attorney Mueller then told District Attorney Dave Sunday three days later that Oksana was alive, the complaint shows.

More:Man released on $1 bail while awaiting trial in wife's death

More:Two years after George Floyd's murder, is Pa.'s police disciplinary database working?

More:Decades after contamination, waste authority considers reopening Superfund site

Oksana emailed the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine on May 13 to get her passport reinstated, and she flew to New York City that November, detectives said.

Before she landed, prosecutors had filed two new criminal cases against her over that summer. One charged Oksana with misdemeanor insurance fraud related to the allegations involving State Farm. The other charged her with a misdemeanor count of unsworn falsification to authorities with forged or altered documents, court records show.

Oksana was then charged again in April with felony conspiracy to commit insurance fraud. Paul, 52, and their 27-year-old son Anatoliy were also charged with felony counts of insurance fraud and conspiracy.

Anatoliy allegedly admitted to investigators in December 2021 that Oksana told the family about the plan to fake her death for the insurance money, and that they had tried to talk her out of it, detectives said in a complaint.

After Oksana went to Ukraine, Anatoliy told investigators, they spoke via a social media app, but coded the messages so they seemed like he was speaking to his grandmother. He also allegedly said he and his father knew Oksana was alive when Paul filed the insurance claims, a complaint shows.

Oksana was also arrested and charged with a felony count of retail theft on April 12. West Manchester Township police alleged she stole $154 worth of merchandise from the Lowe’s Home Improvement store along Carlisle Road. The criminal complaint in that case notes the theft was a third offense.

The theft case brings the story full circle to the beginning of the series of criminal cases against Oksana.

In April 2018, she was charged with a misdemeanor count of retail theft after a Pennsylvania State Police trooper responded to allegations that she took a smoke detector and two tubes of caulk, totaling close to $31, from the Walmart in Shrewsbury Township, a complaint shows.

A little more than a month later, documents show Oksana complained to the state police, alleging that the trooper who arrested her at her home the day after the theft had touched her inappropriately during a search.

>> Please consider subscribing to support local journalism. 

She also alleged that before a hearing in a district court, the trooper propositioned her, saying that in exchange for sex he’d go easy on her and her husband, a criminal complaint shows.

Police conducted an internal investigation into the claims and found no evidence of wrongdoing by the trooper, based on reviews of squad car video, surveillance video at the district court and interviews, the complaint shows.

The sergeant who filed the complaint noted he tried to interview Oksana in person multiple times as part of the case. He described how they had a few phone conversations, which included Oksana allegedly stating she was a former Baltimore City Police officer, and how she wanted her lawyer at the interview and wanted to record it personally.

Oksana was instead charged that November with misdemeanor counts of unsworn falsification to authorities and making a false report. That came a month after she pleaded guilty in the theft case and was sentenced to two years of probation.

Those developments occurred shortly before police said Oksana started applying for the life insurance policies.

— Reach Aimee Ambrose at aambrose@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @aimee_TYD.