Following Life Insurance Investigation, ‘Dead’ Florida Man Arrested for Faking His Death
In 2013, Jose Lantigua traveled to Venezuela and allegedly fell ill. After his supposed death, he left behind his furniture store in Jacksonville, Fla., which was millions of dollars in debt at the time.
But his life insurance company, Hartford Life and Annuity Life Insurance Co., thought they were being swindled, so the company launched an investigation into Lantigua’s death. They claim that one of Lantigua’s workers was bribed into saying that the man’s body had been cremated.
Turns out they were right: Lantigua was alive and well and driving through Buncombe County, N.C. with his wife when he was arrested on Saturday, March 21. His wife was also arrested at that time.
Lantigua now faces insurance fraud charges over policies worth $9 million from seven different companies.
“The cost of insurance fraud of all types of fraud is a serious issue and increases the cost of insurance for everyone,” said Kevin Ressler from Farmer’s Union, a life insurance company. “A report from Conning & Co. in 2000 estimated that the cost of life insurance fraud alone was 11.8 billion dollars per year.”
What tipped Hartford off? Turns out that Lantigua had fraudulently assigned benefits claims to his local creditors before disappearing, and the company became suspicious when two of those lenders made claims through the insurance company.
Lantigua’s son, however, has accused the insurance company of falsifying the investigation and lying about the Venezuelan government revoking Lantigua’s death certificate.
The South Florida Business Journal reported that the insurance company admitted a Venezuelan lawyer altered the documents to make it look like the death certificate had been nullified, but the judge said there was no determining who exactly had changed them.
Prosecutors in Jacksonville said that they were unsure whether Lantigua’s wife knew her husband was alive prior to the arrest, so they could not charge her.
For now it is unclear whether Lantigua has any new legal representation, either. His former attorney in civil cases, Joshua Woolsey, said that they would not represent Lantigua based on this new information.
“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.