Two years ago, Jose Lantigua vanished in Venezuela and many thought the businessman died. Since then, his estate has been battling insurance companies holding his death benefits. In the latest developments, reportedly, the “dead man” was arrested in North Carolina Saturday. Now, the Florida man is facing multiple counts of life insurance fraud, according to an ABC 13 report.
In a case that has been smoldering for several years, and reads like a chapter out of a 60 Minutes show, police say Lantigua, 62, was taken into custody after being on the lam and presumed dead. His arrest marks a significant step towards closure in a case that claimed the former Jacksonville furniture store businessman faked his death in 2013 in order to collect money in an elaborate scheme. One motive on why the man hatched the scam suggests he was buried in debt from his business.
However, early on Hartford Life and Annuity Life Insurance Co. had doubts about the man’s passing. They brought forth two allegations in a lawsuit against the man’s estate. One involved allegations that a worker filed false documents that claimed the “dead man” was reportedly cremated overseas. Another claimed the store owner made assignments of debt to one of his lenders prior to his disappearance.
Lantigua’s son fought back. He filed a counterclaim that stated Hartford committed fraud of its own in the manner of the investigation. He alleged the insurance company committed perjury when claiming that officials with the Venezuelan government revoked his father’s death certificate on grounds of possible fraud.
Somehow, it was confirmed that the insurance company confessed to modifying documents to put their case in the best light. A judge’s ruling was that the papers were doctored. However, His Honor stopped short in offering the manner used or who was behind the falsifications.
It turns out the insurance companies were right: reports suggest the dead man is very much alive. Over the weekend, police in Buncombe County made a traffic stop of a car driven by Lantigua. His wife was a passenger. It’s unknown if the car was targeted due to surveillance, a tip, or from an actual moving violation. However, a warrant, that was just issued last week, was enough for the police to take the man into custody. Reportedly, the dead man was arrested on the outstanding warrant
Until that point, Joshua Woosley, an attorney who has fought to defend his family’s estate since his disappearance, suddenly recused himself from further representation. Evidently, the lawyer too had become the victim of the dead man’s reported fraud in wake of the arrest.
“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.”
Stay tuned for more developments in this case. It’s unknown if the man will be extradited to face charges in Florida.
[Photo: Credit to Brett Hemmings/Stringer/Getty Images]