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A civilian employee of the military faked his drowning death in Europe seven years ago in an insurance scam that federal authorities say they have uncovered, leading to his arrest.

At stake in the scheme by Joseph M. Gaffney II was life insurance benefits worth $784,000, say prosecutors who outlined the pains he took to engineer his fake death and hide for so long.Gaffney, 47, was arrested by FBI agents on Feb. 7. He was living under the name Robert L. Dorsey and was employed as a $21,000-a-year computer operator for a law firm. He had moved to the Richmond area in 1989.

Gaffney has agreed to plead guilty to wire and mail fraud in connection with the alleged life insurance scam, authorities said, and faces a maximum of 10 years in prison and $500,000 in fines.