Wife of businessman accused of faking death pleads guilty

Jose Lantigua already pleaded guilty to federal ID theft, passport fraud

By Chris Parenteau - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The wife of a the man who once owned Circle K Furniture, who police say faked his death to collect millions of dollars in insurance money, pleaded guilty in Duval County on Wednesday to one federal count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.

In October, Jose Lantigua pleaded guilty to federal identity theft and passport fraud charges.

According to investigators, Lantigua faked his death in South America in 2013 after he had taken out life insurance policies worth $9 million.

Lantigua's wife, Daphne Simpson, waived her right to be indicted by a grand jury last month. She faces a maximum of five years in prison and up to three years of supervised release. She could face fines up to $1,742,134.22.

U.S. Attorney Mark Devereaux recommended less than that maximum sentence of five years but also recommended restitution from Simpson of $871,067.11.

No sentencing date was set.

Simpson had no comment as she left the courthouse Wednesday.

Simpson is also charged in North Carolina with making a false statement to law enforcement. That charge has not been transferred to Florida yet. She was supposed to have an identification hearing on that charge Wednesday but it was continued to Aug. 18.

The three-page indictment, created in April 2015, says she told law enforcement officers that her husband was actually a friend. She could face another five years in prison and a $200,000 fine on those charges.

Simpson was released to her family July 20 after the judge ordered an unsecured bond of $50,000. She had been in the Duval County jail for more than a year.

News4Jax received documents last month that show prior to and during their marriage, Simpson thought Lantigua was a team leader in the United States government special operations unit.

READ: Charges laid out against Daphne Simpson

He told her that he needed to fake his own death because the drug cartel was after him and that both of their lives were at risk, the documents said.

According to the court documents, the two collected $856,000 from the fraudulent life insurance claims.

Investigators say that for 16 months after faking his death Lantigua had been hiding out at a house in North Carolina that was owned by his wife.

Insurance investigators cracked the case by talking with a doctor in Venezuela who admitted signing a fake death certificate, citing mad cow disease as Lantigua's cause of death.

Investigators said Lantigua falsified his name on a passport application, but he made a critical mistake when he listed his wife's home in North Carolina on the application.

That house was being built with some of the insurance money that had been paid out to Simpson. Investigators staked out the house, and waited for Lantigua to show up.

He was arrested in the parking lot of a nearby gun shop in March 2015.

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