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Businessman arrested after faking his own death to claim millions in life insurance

Jose Lantigua was wearing a wig and had dyed his beard.

Image: Apexchange

A FLORIDA BUSINESSMAN reported dead in 2013 has been arrested after being found very much alive in North Carolina.

Jose Lantigua was arrested at his multi-million dollar home last Saturday, charged with planning to claim an $8 million life insurance policy in order to pay off business debts.

Lantigua, 62, and his 57-year-old wife, Daphne Simpson, are jailed on seven Florida insurance fraud charges each after he was arrested by federal agents in North Carolina wearing a brown wig and a dyed beard. Each count carries a possible 30-year sentence.

No matter how the criminal case turns out, his arrest gives a resolute end to a long-running court battle between Lantigua’s family and insurance companies that refused to pay off on his life policies because, for many reasons proven right, they didn’t think he was dead.

“I’ve never seen anything quite like (this case),” said Joe Licandro, a Jacksonville prosecutor working the case.

“There was always a suspicion, but they were able to evade authorities as long as he did, and she didn’t have any missteps either — until recently.”

jose-lantigua-435 Jose Lantigua Source: BUNCOMBE COUNTY, SHERIFF'S OFFICE/AP

He purchased his furniture moving company in 2008, having claimed to have multiple degrees and a glittering army career. Neither claim would turn out to be true.

Problems surfaced in 2012, when Lantigua told friends and colleagues he’d fallen ill and needed to go to Venezuela to get an experimental treatment not available in the United States. Around this time, he was also deep in financial worries.

Before long, Lantigua headed to Venezuela to deal with his alleged illness.

It was there, in April 2013, that his family said he died of a heart attack, his body cremated there instead of returned home.

Dead Man Alive Source: Apexchange

At his June 2013 memorial service at High Point Community Church in suburban Jacksonville, Lantigua’s daughter, Christina, sang “Amazing Grace” and the pastor read words of hope as his widow looked on.

Insurance companies had suspicions about the $2 million claim Lantigua’s son, Joseph, had filed, particularly the Venezuelan death and cremation certificates accompanying it. First, the physician who signed Lantigua’s death certificate never received or examined the body. The investigators also said there had been no autopsy.

Finally, the crematorium that had supposedly been used was 250 miles from where Lantigua supposedly died. Investigators found that suspicious.

He was found on Saturday in a secluded part of North Carolina in a house built on a steep, narrow road.

He had used a fake passport to get back into the US, but had listed his “widow” as his emergency contact and given the correct address. When authorities used facial recognition software, they found him easily.

With AP reporting.

Read: School employee fakes daughter’s death to get extra holiday time

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