Jose Lantigua pleads not guilty in faking his own death

Lantigua was allegedly trying to collect on $9 million in life insurance policies

By Chris Parenteau - Reporter, Harrison Barrus - Web news editor

Jose Lantigua (seated next to defense lawyer) appears in federal court in Ashville, North Carolina.

AHSVILLE, N.C. - After being charged with faking his own death, stealing another man's identity, lying to a federal agent and being a fugitive for 16 months, Jose Lantigua plead not guilty to his federal charges in North Carolina Monday morning.

His wife, Daphne Sylvia Simpson, 57, was also charged with one count of making false statements to a federal agent but does not currently have an arraignment date.

An arrest warrant from January 2014 charged Lantigua with eight counts of insurance fraud after officials said Lantigua fled to Venezuela and faked his own death in order to collect on life insurance policies. 

After leaving Venezuela, authorities say Lantigua was living at a house in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina while Simpson was waiting to collect on $9 million from those policies. Federal agents took Lantigua into custody outside a gun shop in Brevard, North Carolina, on March 21. 

Booking photos of Daphne Simpson and Jose Lantigua

Lantigua was the former owner of two Circle K Furniture stores in Jacksonville, which became a booming business in 2008, but his company mysteriously went under about the same time he was reported dead in South America.

Lantigua has also been served with Florida charges with eight counts of insurance fraud. He is expected back in court on April 27.

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