Florida Man Who Faked His Own Death Charged With Insurance Fraud
Jose Lantigua, a Florida businessman, was recently arrested for insurance fraud, after faking his death in 2013. He was tracked down by federal agents while in disguise, after evading them for nearly two years.
Lantigua owned a successful furniture business, but a few years before his alleged death, the company began to side into debt, and he began spending erratically, replacing his bookkeeper to avoid questions on his finances. In 2012, prosecutors allege, he and his wife began to plan his fake death, in order to cash in on over $8 million worth of insurance. They have been charged with seven counts of insurance fraud under Florida law, and each count carries the potential for 30 years in prison.
His apprehension has put an end to drawn-out disputes between the family of the “deceased” and insurance companies who refused to pay out for his policies because they had no proof that he was dead. Lantigua staged his death by heart attack in Venezuela, and his family obtained fraudulent death certificates and cremation certificates.
However, the fake passport that Lantigua used to return to the United States after his supposed death was his undoing. Inconsistencies in the passport later triggered a state department investigation, and while the other information on the passport was forged, including the name of the passport holder, State Department employees used facial recognition technology to discover his real identity. Tracking him down after discovering that he was still alive was easy, because he had listed his wife as his emergency contact on the passport, giving their home address.
Insurance Fraud under Florida Law
Although most insurance schemes are less dramatic than Lantigua’s, the punishment can still be severe. Florida law states that a person commits insurance fraud if he makes false statements, gives misleading information, or submits false documents supporting a claim to an insurer, “with the intent to injure, defraud, or deceive” them.
In addition to punishing the principal claimant involved in the insurance fraud, the statute also provides for the prosecution of licensed physicians and other practitioners who knowingly and willfully help anyone to carry out fraudulent activities. If a healthcare professional is found guilty of insurance fraud, it will automatically trigger an administrative hearing to consider whether to impose sanctions.
Attorneys are also explicitly subject to the insurance fraud statute, and criminal charges can be brought against them for conspiring with others to defraud insurance companies.
If an insurer loses money due to a fraudulent scheme, they are entitled to full compensation for their losses, plus attorneys’ fees and other litigation expenses needed to bring a civil suit to recover their funds. The insurance fraud law covers all types of insurance, including health insurance, life insurance, motor vehicle insurance, and many others.
Reach Out to an Attorney for Help
If you believe that you are being investigated for insurance fraud, it crucial to speak with a lawyer right away. A fraud defense attorney with years of experience can help you understand the law and your options under it, and can help devise an aggressive strategy for preserving your liberty and your reputation in the face of allegations of fraud. Contact the South Florida office of Jeffrey S. Weiner, P.A. today for a consultation, and rest assured that our team of seasoned attorneys will fight for you.