Jose Lantigua, the former owner of a Jacksonville, Fla. furniture company who reportedly died in 2013 while on vacation in Venezuela, was arrested by police in North Carolina this weekend for allegedly swindling insurance companies out of an estimated $9 million.
Lantigua, 62, was the owner of Circle K Furniture until his supposed death in 2013, after which the stores were shut down and $8 million in debt was left to his estate, the Jacksonville Business Journal reports. But before disappearing, Lantingua took out a collective $9 million in life insurance policies across seven insurers.
One of those insurance companies, Hartford Life and Annuity Insurance Co., launched their own investigation. In their lawsuit, the company alleges that Lantingua had bribed a Venezuelan government employee to falsify documents stating he had been cremated, and that before he "died," he fraudulently assigned benefit claims to a local creditors. And it just kept going:
Things escalated to full weird this year: Lantigua's son accused the insurance company of falsifying its investigation into his father's death. Joseph Lantigua said Hartford launched a fraudulent investigation and lied about the Venezuelan government revoking his father's death certificate.
In April, lawyers representing Lantigua's estate pushed to have the case thrown out (Hartford admitted a Venezuelan lawyer did alter documents to make it seem like the Venezuelan government nullified the death certificate, although they claim they had no knowledge of that fact). A judge ruled the papers were faked, but could not determine who faked them.
A warrant for Lantigua's arrest was issued more than a year ago, the Associated Press reports, but apparently had to be dropped "after problems emerged with some of the underlying information in the case." And an arrest warrant was never issued for his wife, Daphne Simpson, because prosecutors "weren't sure until now whether she knew he was alive."
Indeed, Simpson was in the car with Lantigua when police pulled him over this past weekend.* (She was later arrested by police.) According to the Florida Times-Union, he's currently being held in a Buncombe County, N.C. jail.
[Image via Buncombe County, N.C., Sheriff's Office]