1982: Oregon businessman Phil Champagne, age 52, dies in a tragic boating accident off Lopez Island. He is survived by one ex-wife, four adult children, an octogenarian mother, and two despondent brothers. Phil didn't know he was dead until he read it in the paper. All things considered, he took it rather well. So did Phil's brother, Mitch, the beneficiary of a 1.5 million dollar policy on Phil's life.
1992: Washington restaurateur Harold Stegeman, famous for his thick, juicy steaks, is arrested by the Secret Service for printing counterfeit US currency in an Idaho shed. In addition to the bogus bills, Stegeman also has a fraudulently obtained passport, a fabricated Cayman Island driver's license, and Phil Champagne's fingerprints.
When the uproarious reality of Harold Stegeman's secret identity hit the headlines, the counterfeit resurrection of Phil Champagne became one of the most celebrated and hysterically funny true-crime stories of the 20th century. And while every supermarket tabloid and television talk show hounded after the untold story, only Edgar Award winner Burl Barer captured Champagne's confidence and received permission to detail Phil's post-mortem career of fraud, deception, trickery, lies, and fine prime rib, bringing to life the exploits of a man his family thought dead over a decade ago.