Fake News: NO Florida Millionaire Arrested, Authorities Did NOT Discover Over 700 Bodies Burried in His Backyard

Hoax Alert

  • by: Maarten Schenk
Fake News: NO Florida Millionaire Arrested, Authorities Did NOT Discover Over 700 Bodies Burried in His Backyard

Was a 73-year old Florida millionaire named Jerry Richards arrested in Naples, Florida after police found over 700 bodies in his backyard? No, that's not true: the story was made up in the summer of 2018 by a site that publishes fiction disguised as news and has been circulating on the internet ever since.

The story originated from an article (archived here) where it was published by Empire News on June 30, 2018 under the title "Florida Millionaire Arrested After Authorities Discover Over 700 Bodies Buried In His Backyard". It opened:

NAPLES, Florida -

Jerry Richards, 73, was arrested this week at his home in Naples, Florida after a neighbor spotted him very obviously burying a body behind his house. When police arrested Richards, he admitted to having over 700 bodies buried throughout his property. Police have currently exhumed 587 bodies in varying stages of decay.

"Mr. Jerry Richards is likely the most prolific serial killer in history," said Police Captain Robert Thomas of the Naples Police Department. "Based on the remains we have found so far, Richards has been murdering and burying bodies in his yard for over 35 years."

The supposed picture of this millionaire has a long history of being used in various hoax stories.

The site Empire News has an About/Disclaimer page hidden in the footer (archived here) that reads:

Empire News is intended for entertainment purposes only. Our website and social media content uses only fictional names, except in cases of public figure and celebrity parody or satirization. Any other use of real names is accidental and coincidental.

But the story was posted in the categories "Headlines" and "Weird News" and the site presents itself as news, hiding the satire disclaimer on a second page that requires scrolling and clicking to find. In accordance with our Satire Policy we rate this story "False" and not "Satire" as it is clearly intended to deceive people.

And it worked: this 2019 Facebook post contains a screenshot of the story and is still being shared as if it really happened:


  Maarten Schenk

Lead Stories co-founder Maarten Schenk is our resident expert on fake news and hoax websites. He likes to go beyond just debunking trending fake news stories and is endlessly fascinated by the dazzling variety of psychological and technical tricks used by the people and networks who intentionally spread made-up things on the internet.  He can often be found at conferences and events about fake news, disinformation and fact checking when he is not in his office in Belgium monitoring and tracking the latest fake article to go viral.

Read more about or contact Maarten Schenk

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