Woman defends boyfriend accused of blackmailing DeLand commissioner

Jessica Sutton, 24, says she dated Commissioner Jeff Hunter until July

DeLAND, Fla. – Jessica Sutton, 24, defended her on-again-off-again boyfriend Tuesday who is accused of blackmailing DeLand city commissioner Jeff Hunter over the romantic relationship he had with the woman.

The young woman said she met Hunter, who is unmarried, at the DeLand car wash where she worked and the two became an item in April, but Sutton said she ended things in July.

Sutton said she and Jose Santiago, 24, were trying to patch things up and the 58-year-old commissioner wouldn't have it.

"We wanted to continue our relationship, and he couldn't take no for an answer," Sutton said.

Deputies said Hunter had paid a 24-year-old DeLand woman $15,000 for various medical treatments during the course of their romantic relationship, but then later found out she used the money for a vehicle and gave some to Santiago.

When Hunter found out how the woman had actually spent the money, Santiago began threatening him and his family and the woman faked her own death to avoid repaying him, the report said.

Sutton denies that Santiago tried to extort money from the commissioner, saying her beau was sticking up for her. She said Hunter, who wouldn't stop texting and calling, wanted his money back, and claimed Santiago didn't want to put up with it any longer.
"You have to do something; you have to say something," Sutton said. "He defended my honor."
Deputies said Santiago threatened Hunter and his family, and said he would accuse Hunter of raping Sutton if he didn't pay them $20,000.

Hunter's spokesman, Jason Harr, said the couple scammed Hunter out of thousands of dollars before he contacted law enforcement.

"He doesn't want to be a victim. He wants to be an example," Harr said. "He believes as a rising star in local politics, that he should be an example."

Sutton said she is hurt by what Hunter is alleging.

"I never thought you'd do anything like this, as someone who I thought was a friend," Sutton said.

Sutton said she did try filing a police report on Hunter but was unsuccessful.

Santiago is being held on $5,000 bail. Deputies said they are still investigating to see if Sutton could also face charges.
Harr told News 6 if Hunter gets his money back, he will donate it to a charity.

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