DeLand, FL – A DeLand man has been arrested after attempting to blackmail a DeLand city commissioner, trying to collect several thousand dollars from the commissioner, and saying he had “dirt and info” on the commissioner that could send the official to prison.
24-year-old Jose Santiago had agreed to meet Commissioner Jeff Hunter outside a Space Coast Credit Union in DeLand and collect $12,000 in cash from him. Santiago was arrested instead outside that credit union at around 2 PM on Monday, according to Volusia County Sheriff’s Office (VCSO).
(Santiago’s mugshot courtesy Volusia County Jail)
The case had been investigated ever since October 19, when Hunter told detectives that he was defrauded by Santiago’s on-again, off-again girlfriend. Hunter had been romantically involved with the woman, according to VCSO. Hunter had paid the woman $15,000 for medical treatments, but he claims the woman spent the money on a vehicle and gave some of the money to Santiago.
The woman allegedly faked her own death in order to avoid re-paying Hunter. When Hunter confronted the woman about the money, he said Santiago threatened him and his family and demanded more money under threat of giving police evidence of a crime.
“(Hunter and Santiago) had a series of text message conversations and, I think, phone conversations, and of course, we recovered a portion of those texts through the phone when we examined it,” says Andrew Gant, Public Information Officer for VCSO.
One text from Santiago to Hunter reads, “If u listen to me and pay me what I want u won’t go to prison. 20 grand it all goes away.”
At this point in the investigation, VCSO says Hunter is not facing any charges surrounding the allegations from Santiago. “We’re still investigating the circumstances of the whole case,” says Gant. “At this point, the commissioner is a victim of extortion.”
(Photo of Commissioner Hunter courtesy deland.org)
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