Alibi V.26 No.7 • Feb 16-22, 2017 

Odds & Ends

Odds and Ends

Dateline: China

The factory that manufactured those Galaxy Note 7 smartphone batteries with the unfortunate tendency to burst into flames apparently caught fire. On Feb. 7, pictures circulated on Weibo, a popular Chinese social media service, showing plumes of black smoke rising into the air from what users described as a plant operated by Samsung SDI Co. in Tianjin. A company spokesperson told Bloomberg news service that the fire was quickly put out and did not affect production. Samsung SDI was one of two battery suppliers for the Note 7 smartphones, which were killed off after a global recall in the wake of numerous incidents involving exploding or burning batteries. SDI said earlier this month it has invested about 150 billion won ($129 million) in safety and that its batteries will probably be used in the next generation of Samsung Electronics’ smartphones. The manufacturer says the recent fire occurred at a waste depository and not a production facility.

Dateline: Florida

An unemployed man accused of making $7 billion in fraudulent wire transfers told the court he stole the money because Jesus wanted him to be wealthy. John Michael Haskew of Lakeland, Fla., was arrested in mid-December of last year after he allegedly arranged a wire transfer from what the state’s criminal complaint called “a large, nationally renowned financial institution.” According to the complaint, Haskew told agents he was “self-taught on the banking industry” and used a bank routing number that wasn’t his to make more than 70 transaction totaling more than $7 billion. Prosecutors believe Haskew initially started stealing money because he owed a debt to the federal government. Asked why he continued to steal such an astronomical sum, Haskew allegedly told investigators that he believed he deserved the money, because “Jesus Christ created wealth for everyone.” According to the complaint, “Haskew believed that he could obtain the wealth that Jesus Christ created for him and that belonged to him.” According to WFTV-9, Haskew pled guilty earlier this month on a charge of making a false or fraudulent statement to a department or agency of the United States. He could face up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

Dateline: Florida

A failing furniture store owner will spend more than a decade in jail after pleading guilty to a convoluted scheme to fake his own death. According to court documents, 63-year-old Jose Salvador Lantigua used fraudulent documents to secure a $2 million loan back in 2012. In an attempt to hide his financial problems from his family and his wife, Daphne Simpson, Lantigua told his wife back in January 2013 that he has been diagnosed with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, better known as mad cow disease. Lantigua said he only had six months to live and needed to fly to Colombia for a surgical procedure that could save his life. Shortly before leaving for Colombia, Lantigua changed his mind, inventing another elaborate falsehood. He told Simpson, “his past was catching up with him from his time with an Army military special operations team,” the US Attorney’s Office said in a media release. “He explained that the ‘team’ had killed a drug cartel leader and he was currently being blackmailed by a rogue CIA agent who would expose Lantigua’s identity to the alleged cartel member’s son if he did not satisfy the blackmail demands.” The only solution was to fake his own death. “This new explanation was also entirely false,” the US Attorney’s Office release noted. Nonetheless, Simpson—who bought the previous mad cow story—also bought into this new story. In April 2013, Lantigua flew to Margarita Island off the coast of Venezuela, where he purchased a fake death certificated and a fake certification of cremation. Later that month Simpson flew to Venezuela to meet Lantigua. While there, the pair went to the US Embassy where Simpson obtained a “certificate of death abroad” for her husband. After returning home to Jacksonville, Simpson promptly filed seven life insurance claims totaling $6.6 million, claiming Lantigua had died of complication from mad cow disease while in Venezuela. According to court records, Simpson took a cruise to the Bahamas in the fall of 2013, where she met up with Lantigua. While there, the couple paid someone $5,000 to smuggle them back into the United States on a fishing boat. Back in the US, Lantigua and Simpson moved to property they owned in North Carolina. Nearly a year later, Lantigua went to a North Carolina Motor Vehicles office with a fake New York driver’s license and a fake birth certificate and obtained an ID under the name Ernest Wills. Lantigua’s scheme fell apart less than two months later when he used the North Carolina driver’s license to obtain a US passport. Officials screening the application immediately noticed the false information on the application for “Ernest Wills” and soon matched the passport photograph he submitted to Lantigua’s real passport. In March 2015, agents with the US State Department and North Carolina State Bureau of Investigations conducted surveillance on “Ernest Wills.” When he was spotted, one of the agents called out his real name. Lantigua responded and was arrested. Lantigua and Simpson were both charged in connection with the scheme and pled guilty last year. According to the Palm Beach Post, Lantigua was sentenced on Feb. 1 to 14 years in prison. Simpson got five years probation for her part.

Compiled by Devin D. O'Leary. Email your weird news to devin@alibi.com.