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AP Source: US tourist in Aruba tried to redeem insurance policy 2 days after woman disappeared
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) ' Investigators have been told that just two days after an American tourist was reported missing in Aruba, her travel companion tried to collect on a $1.5 million accidental-death insurance policy he took out on her, The Associated Press has learned.
A person who provided information to authorities told the AP that Gary V. Giordano, now detained on the Caribbean island, bought the insurance specifically for his five-day getaway with Robyn Gardner. The person did not have authorization to publicly release the information and agreed to speak only on condition of anonymity.
Aruban authorities have confirmed that Giordano had an insurance policy that covered the missing woman, but have not said who the beneficiary is, how much the policy is worth or whether Giordano tried to collect.
Giordano, a 50-year-old owner of a temporary staffing business from Gaithersburg, Md., traveled to Aruba with Gardner on July 31 and reported her missing two days later. He told police that she disappeared while the two were snorkeling.
He initially assisted the search but was detained at the airport Aug. 5 as he tried to leave Aruba. Authorities said they found discrepancies in his story. Giordano has denied any wrongdoing through his attorney.
A judge ruled Monday there is enough evidence to hold Giordano until at least the end of August on suspicion of involvement in Gardner's presumed death. The 35-year-old woman's body has not been found and Aruban authorities on Thursday were preparing for a new, large-scale search of the island for her remains or other evidence.
Aruban authorities in general seem more guarded with information than they were during the investigation into the 2005 disappearance of Alabama teenager Natalee Holloway ' a case that remains unsolved. Holloway disappeared on the final night of a high school graduation trip to the island.
Solicitor General Taco Stein, the spokesman for the investigation, has confirmed that Giordano had travel insurance, but said authorities are still reviewing financial documents provided by U.S. authorities and are trying to determine if they are relevant to the investigation.
"It's not unusual in and of itself to buy travel insurance," he told the AP. "Loads of people do it."
Investigators were trying to determine if there was anything unusual about the policy. "If you change the policy around and make it higher or whatever, then it may be of interest to the investigation, but we haven't established that yet," Stein said.
The person with knowledge of the policy told the AP that Giordano purchased the $1.5 million policy shortly before he left for Aruba and that the accidental-death benefit covered only the trip.
The source told the AP that Giordano called American Express Travel Insurance on Aug. 4. He sought to confirm that the documents listing him as the insurance beneficiary had been received and wanted to begin redeeming the policy.
This person also said that records indicate Giordano asked whether any search costs would be covered by the policy.
A spokeswoman for American Express, Gail Wasserman, said the company could not comment on any individual policies for privacy reasons.
Giordano's attorney, Michael Lopez, did not respond to a request to comment on the insurance policy. The attorney has previously said that there is no evidence that Giordano committed any crime and that he should be released.
Investigators are seeking to collect enough evidence by the next detention hearing to hold Giordano for another 60 days and proceed to trial. Among the material collected so far, Stein said, are "explicit" photos of Gardner that were stored on Giordano's camera, which has been confiscated.
Stein declined to provide details of the photos, but he said that partial images of Giordano appeared in some of them. Investigators are still trying to determine when the photos were taken.
The FBI, which searched Giordano's home in an upscale Washington suburb, has been assisting Aruban authorities with the investigation and has put out a missing-person poster with three photographs of the 5-foot-4-inch blonde, including one showing a jungle-print design tattoo on her left shoulder. The poster urges anyone with information about Gardner to contact the FBI or the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
The exact nature of the relationship between Gardner, who had a boyfriend back home in Maryland, and Giordano, a twice-divorced father of three sons, isn't clear, but the prosecutor's office has said they stayed in a room together at a Marriott hotel in Aruba. Gardner, who is from Frederick, Md., had recently been laid off from her job as a patient care coordinator at a dental office.
Investigators said they have little information about what the couple did and how they behaved while on the island and have urged any witnesses to contact police.
Associated Press writer Justin Juozapavicius contributed to this report.