JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A court hearing was held Tuesday involving the disputed death of a successful Jacksonville businessman.
Jose Lantigua turned Circle K Furniture into a booming business in 2008, but then his company mysteriously went under around the same time that he was reported dead in South America.
Lantigua's family confirms he died, but the company that holds his life insurance policy, Hartford Life and Annuity, says he's alive in Venezuela and it's not paying.
Lantigua leaves behind a wife and two children in their 20s, according to Josh Woolsey, the Lantigua family's attorney. He said Lantigua's wife even has his death certificate and ashes.
But according to Hartford and Life Annuity, as well as several other insurance companies, Lantigua is alive and well, living somewhere in South America.
"All the sudden we learn they refuse to pay the death benefit, and it appears several of the insurance companies have collaborated together and are using the same source of information, which they're basing their refusal to pay their proceeds from," Woolsey said.
He said if Lantigua's family ever thought he had faked his death, he wouldn't be representing the family because they would never participate in fraud. He also said they have asked the insurance companies several times for evidence that Lantigua is still alive but nothing has been provided.
In November, Hartford Life and Annuity Insurance Company claimed the Venezuelan government revoked the insured death certificate of Lantigua, but attorneys for the family said they never received notice of that.
Family attorneys then got a lawyer in Venezuela and found out the insurance companies' claim that the death certificate was nullified had itself been falsified.
Woolsey said two words were deleted from the court order confirming Lantigua's death, which completely changed the meaning of the document.
Claiming the documents had been falsified, family attorneys then asked the judge to dismiss the company's filing as a sham.
"At this point, if they're capable of falsifying court orders and committing fraud, then nothing they have to say and nothing they have to produce in our opinion is liable and shouldn't be considered," Woolsey said.
At Tuesday's hearing, a trial date was set for July 2015.
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