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AP Source: US tourist in Aruba tried to quickly redeem insurance policy on missing woman
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) ' A Maryland man detained in Aruba in the presumed death of his travel partner had an accidental-death insurance policy on her for $1.5 million and sought to claim the money two days after reporting her missing, a person who provided information to the investigation has told The Associated Press.
The details of the policy obtained by Gary V. Giordano before his trip to Aruba may help explain why he has been detained on suspicion of involvement in the death of Robyn Gardner during their short getaway to the Dutch Caribbean island.
The person with knowledge of the policy told the AP that Giordano purchased a $1.5 million American Express Travel Insurance policy shortly before he left for Aruba and that the accidental-death benefit covered only the length of their short trip.
The source told the AP that Giordano called the insurance company on Aug. 4, while the search for Gardner was still going on. 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.
The source did not have authorization to publicly release the information and agreed to speak with the AP only on condition of anonymity.
A spokeswoman for American Express, Gail Wasserman, said the company could not comment on any individual policies for privacy reasons.
Aruban Solicitor General Taco Stein, the spokesman for the investigation into Gardner's disappearance, said Wednesday that Giordano had travel insurance but he provided few details, saying investigators were still reviewing financial documents as they tried to determine what happened to the 35-year-old woman from Frederick, Maryland.
Stein said investigators were still studying the policy to determine exactly what it entailed.
"If you travel, you take out insurance. That's not an uncommon thing, to say the least," Stein told the AP. "It all depends on what's in the policy."
Investigators were trying to determine if there was anything unusual or striking 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," he said.
ABC news, citing an unidentified police source, first reported that Giordano had taken out a $1.5 million American Express insurance policy on Gardner and that it was being considered as a possible motive in her disappearance.
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.
Giordano, a 50-year-old business owner from Gaithersburg, Maryland, traveled to Aruba with Gardner on July 31 and reported her missing two days later, saying she disappeared while the two were snorkeling.
He initially assisted the search but was detained at the airport as he tried to leave Aruba. Authorities said they had found discrepancies in his story.
Giordano, a twice-divorced father of three sons, has denied any wrongdoing through his attorney.
A judge ruled Monday there is enough evidence to hold him for at least 16 more days on suspicion of involvement in Gardner's presumed death. The 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.
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 his relationship with Gardner, who had a boyfriend back home in Maryland, isn't clear but the prosecutor's office has said the couple stayed in a room together at a Marriott hotel in Aruba.
Investigators said they have little information about what the couple did and how they behaved while on the island and have appealed for any witnesses to contact police.
Associated Press writer Justin Juozapavicius contributed to this report.