• DeLand man charged with trying to blackmail city commissioner, deputies say

    By: Michael Springer

    Updated:

    DELAND, Fla. - A 24-year-old man accused of trying to blackmail a DeLand city commissioner was arrested Monday outside a credit union while waiting for a handoff, officials with the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office said.

    Jose A. Santiago is accused of trying to force DeLand Commissioner Jeff Hunter into giving him $12,000 in cash after a romantic relationship Hunter had during October with a 24-year-old woman, investigators said.

    Hunter reported the case on Oct. 19, saying the 24-year-old woman had defrauded him out of $15,000, which he believed was to be used for a medical procedure, Sheriff’s Office officials said.

    Hunter alleged that the woman instead used the money to purchase a vehicle and gave some to her on-again, off-again boyfriend, Santiago, deputies said.

    The woman allegedly went so far as to fake her own death to avoid paying Hunter back, Sheriff’s Office officials said.

    When Hunter confronted the woman about the money, he claimed that Santiago “began threatening him and his family, and demanded additional money under threat of giving police evidence of a crime,” a Sheriff’s Office statement said.

    Santiago is accused of sending Hunter a text message saying that he needed to “pay me what I want (and you) don’t go to prison,” the statement said. “$20,000 (and) it all goes away.”

    Santiago was allegedly waiting outside a Space Coast Credit Union in DeLand to meet with Hunter to pick up $12,000 in cash when he was arrested, deputies said.

    Officials with the city of DeLand declined to comment on the incident involving Hunter.

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