DeLand Man Charged with Extortion

posted by Alan McBride -

A DeLand man who attempted to blackmail a DeLand city commissioner was arrested Monday afternoon after an investigation by Volusia County sheriff’s detectives.

That's according to a Sheriff's Department news release, which further states that the suspect, Jose A. Santiago, was arrested outside a Space Coast Credit Union in DeLand, where he had reportedly agreed to meet DeLand City Commissioner Jeff Hunter and collect $12,000 in cash from him.

The Sheriff’s Office says its investigation began after Hunter reported the case Oct. 19. 

According to deputies, the commissioner told detectives he was defrauded by a 24-year-old DeLand woman with whom he had been involved in a romantic relationship.

Investigators say Hunter reported he had paid the woman about $15,000 for medical treatments he came to believe never actually occurred. 

The tale related by investigators grows more tangled from there.

They say Hunter said some of the money he gave the woman for medical treatments went toward a vehicle, and some went to the woman’s on-again, off-again boyfriend, Santiago. 

Investigators say Hunter said the woman even faked her own death in an attempt to avoid repaying him.

Authorities say when Hunter confronted the woman about the money, he said Santiago began threatening him and his family, and demanded additional money under threat of giving police evidence of a crime. 

Santiago told Hunter he had "dirt and info" that would "have u arrested for a very long time," according to text messages reviewed by Volusia County Sheriff's detectives.

"If u listen to me and pay me what I want u won't go to prison," read a text message allegedly from Santiago to Hunter on Aug. 11. "20 grand it all goes away."

Detectives say they are contining to investigate the case, and additional charges are possible.

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