In 2013, a Jacksonville resident traveled to Venezuela for a vacation where his family claimed he passed away from a heart attack. The U.S. embassy confirmed his death in the local seaside tourist town of Rio Chico, and he was reportedly cremated. But it turns out he has been very much alive. This was confirmed recently by his appearance in a federal courtroom in Asheville, North Carolina.
Jose Lantigua’s death was all an apparent ruse; an alleged plan that would allow him to escape more than $9 million of debt that included fraudulent insurance claims. Lantigua is a 62-year-old from Jacksonville, Florida and was arrested next to his wife’s home in North Carolina. He was charged with many crimes in Florida, including 7 counts of filing fraudulent insurance claims and other fraud charges.
In Jacksonville, Lantigua seemed to be a business success. He was a former executive for Fidelity National Information Services and bought two furniture stores in 2008, which were lauded as a local favorite in a 2013 edition of the Jacksonville Business Journal. The truth about Lantiua’s death became evident after one of the insurance companies that were to pay out life insurance proceeds hired an investigator to look into the man’s death.
The investigation revealed that Lantigua faked his death and had continued to live in Venezuela. A Venezuelan attorney admitted he participated in a scheme to fabricate documents for Lantigua’s fake death and a funeral home director was even involved in the scheme. Lantigua was caught after he tried to return to the United States. He acquired a North Carolina driver’s license and birth certificate using the name of a former New York postal worker. He later used the identification to apply for a passport.
We bring this news to your attention because many of Lantigua’s problems could have easily been avoided by filing bankruptcy. Lantigua hoped that by faking his own death he could avoid paying his creditors, as well as the creditors of his businesses.
Bankruptcy can help a debtor get out from underneath his or her debt and provide a fresh start. Many assets are also exempt from the bankruptcy estate. This includes most primary residences as well as assets held in retirement accounts like an IRA or Roth IRA. A personal bankruptcy is usually filed under Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. A Chapter 13 bankruptcy requires the debtor to pay back a portion of his or her debt through monthly payments over a certain period of time. For more information on how to get out of debt and which assets maybe protected, contact the Law Office of David M. Goldman, PLLC.