Florida man who faked death arrested for fraud

2015-03-22 22:08

(File) (Shutterstock)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Jacksonville - A Jacksonville businessman reported dead two years ago in Venezuela was arrested in North Carolina on alleged fraud charges on Saturday after his life insurance companies filed a lawsuit alleging he was alive and they shouldn't be making payments.

Details of the charges against 62-year-old Jose Lantigua are unclear. But Saturday's arrest ends two years of speculation about whether the former furniture store owner had faked an illness in 2013 while vacationing in Venezuela, leaving his business millions of dollars in debt.

His life insurance companies thought they were being swindled and launched an investigation saying the businessman was not dead after two lenders filed claims. The lawsuits by Hartford Life and Annuity Life Insurance also alleged a worker was bribed to falsify documents stating the businessman's body was cremated. They also claim Lantigua fraudulently assigned benefits claims to a local creditor before he disappeared.

The South Florida Business Journal reports Lantigua's son accused the insurance company of falsifying its investigation into his father's death, accusing the company of lying about the Venezuelan government revoking his father's death certificate.

The newspaper reported that the insurance company admitted a Venezuelan lawyer did alter documents to make it seem like the Venezuelan government nullified the death certificate. A judge ruled the papers were faked, but could not determine who faked them.

Fast forward to Saturday when officials stopped a car Lantigua was driving in with his wife in Buncombe County, NC.

A Jacksonville prosecutor said Lantigua faces insurance fraud charges in Florida involving policies worth $9m from seven companies.

Assistant State Attorney Joe Licandro said an arrest warrant for Lantigua had been issued more than a year ago, but prosecutors dropped it after problems emerged with some of the underlying information in the case. He said a new warrant charging Lantigua with insurance fraud and schemes to defraud was issued within the past week.

Licandro said no warrant had previously been issued for Lantigua's wife because prosecutors weren't sure until now whether she knew he was alive. Federal agents released her in North Carolina, but she was arrested on Saturday evening in Florida.

Attorney Joshua Woolsey, who has represented the family in several civil suits, said on Saturday that he and his law firm were withdrawing from the case.

"I and the law firm were shocked to learn this morning that we have been defrauded by acting and relying on the information that indicated he was dead," Woolsey said.

It's unclear whether Lantigua has retained new representation.

Read more on:    us

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.