A 24-year-old man accused of trying to extort $20,000 from a DeLand city commissioner was arrested Monday outside a credit union, 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 cash after a romantic relationship Hunter had during October with Jessica Sutton, 24, 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 Sutton 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.
Speaking to Channel 9 Tuesday, Sutton claimed the incident stemmed from her ending the relationship with Hunter.
"There was no one trying to extort him for money," she said. "He would not leave us alone, all because I didn't want a relationship."
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.
According to Volusia County Sheriff's Office records, Santiago allegedly threatened to have Sutton go to the police and claim Hunter raped her, but promised that if he handed over the money, "it all goes away."
Sutton claimed that anything Santiago may have done was done out of frustration.
"He doesn't do everything in the best way, just because he does have a little bit of anger to somebody that has constantly harassed the person that he loves," Sutton said.
Sutton admitted taking money from Hunter, but could not remember how much.
The money was used mainly for gas and for times she needed help around the house, not for a car, Sutton said.
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