It's one thing to give out holiday cards with donations to a fake charity, and it's an entirely other thing to fake your own daughter's death. A former city school employee has been accused of perpetrating just such an elaborate ruse in order to extend her Costa Rican vacation in March 2010—and she allegedly had her daughters help with the plot.

According to a report by special schools investigator Richard Condon, Joan Barnett, a parent coordinator at the Manhattan High School of Hospitality Management, instructed one of her daughters to call the school to say that her sister had suffered a heart attack in Costa Rica. Then she had another daughter call the school to say that the sister had died and that Barnett and relatives were traveling to the country for a funeral.

Barnett even faxed a forged death certificate of her daughter “Xinia Daley Herman” to school as proof of the death to put the icing on the cake—she got to spend two-and-a-half weeks (including her school-sanctioned spring break) in Costa Rica on a trip she booked more than three weeks before she left—well before her daughter "died."

But a school official became suspicious of the death certificate because it contained “slightly different fonts which were not aligned properly,” according to the report. After some investigating, Costa Rican government officials confirmed that the certificate was a fake, noting the document had identification numbers issued in 2005; Costa Rican officials added it “does not issue death certificates five years prior to a person’s date of death.”

Even when she was confronted with that documentation, Barnett tried to keep her story going, insisting her daughter "died of a heart condition." But she made a mistake when she submitted another death certificate with the month and year changed. She subsequently lost her job, and this fall pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor over the forgery in Manhattan Criminal Court.