NEW PORT RICHEY — Roy Antigua, the mystery man with a dizzying cache of military and government disguises who captured international headlines earlier this year, quietly pleaded no contest last week to some of his criminal charges.
Antigua, 53, caused an uproar this fall that reverberated from local law enforcement in Pasco through the echelons of agencies such as the U.S. Secret Service, CIA and Coast Guard.
"Why would somebody do this?" Antigua said of his actions in a jail interview with the Times in August. He said his addiction of pretending to be people he wasn't — CIA agent and Coast Guard officer were his favorites — was "crazy" and "nuts."
"I'd like professional help," he said as he wept.
The strange case began simply.
On Aug. 1, Antigua drove to the New Port Richey police station to talk with officers about a dispute with his neighbor. There, it was ascertained that Antigua did not have a valid driver's license. As he drove away, an officer pulled him over — for knowingly driving without a valid license, authorities said. Antigua claimed to be in the Coast Guard. His shiny black Cadillac Escalade with dark tinted windows had a Department of Homeland Security registration sticker and a Coast Guard license plate. He had blue flashing lights and handcuffs inside the vehicle.
Back at the police station, Officer Ed Campbell, a Marine veteran, noticed Antigua's military ID looked fake. Authorities wanted to know more.
Antigua allowed officers to search his home. There, they found a worrisome stockpile of law enforcement, military and medical uniforms, badges and supplies. He had identification badges with photos of himself dating back decades. At a press conference at the New Port Richey Police Department, it took seven tables to display the evidence. There were items from NASA, U.S. Customs, the Navy, the CIA, Secret Service, Homeland Security. Military medals. There was a suitcase full of medical scrubs, a black leather doctor's bag with instruments and badges saying he was a physician's assistant. There was a photo of him in scrubs cradling a newborn. Police found ammunition for semiautomatic guns and assault rifles, but no weapons.
"Who is Roy Antigua?" New Port Richey police Chief James Steffens said to reporters. He asked for the public's help.
Was Antigua pretending to be a doctor? Treating patients? What confidential information had he accessed with his military and government identification? Was he pulling over citizens with his blue lights? Was he threatening anyone? Harming anyone?
"You don't have this collection just to keep it in your house and look in the mirror," said Steffens, who recognized Antigua as the man who sidled up to him at a Memorial Day event and introduced himself as Lt. Cmdr. Roy Antigua of the Coast Guard. Steffens said he was believable.
Hundreds of tips came in. But, as the months progressed, none of the horrific possibilities appeared to be reality. Antigua was charged with the Memorial Day disguise — which he called "a bad idea" in court records — and for flashing a CIA badge when entering the New Port Richey courthouse a few times. Antigua said that while at the courthouse, he didn't access any secured areas. He walked around. Paid a traffic ticket.
The only badge that was true, Steffens said, was an identification card saying Antigua was a member of the Coast Guard Auxiliary in Miami, a volunteer unit, but Antigua was kicked out in 2011 after being arrested on a grand theft charge. Antigua used his Coast Guard gas credit card to fill up his personal car, then started filling up other people's cars in exchange for drugs or money to buy drugs, according to court records. In a few years, he racked up nearly $8,000 and was charged with grand theft. He entered a pre-trial diversion program, records state, and was sentenced in May to three years probation. He was ordered to pay restitution but, thus far, made only one payment in June of $142.31, court records show.
Last week, he pleaded no contest to two counts of falsely impersonating an officer and was sentenced to 11 months and 29 days in jail. He still faces one charge of falsely impersonating an officer and knowingly driving with a suspended or revoked license, court records state.
After those charges are dealt with, Antigua will be transported to Miami to face charges of violating his probation for the arrests in Pasco and for not paying restitution. Ed Griffith, spokesman for the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office, said, if convicted, Antigua faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
"I want to see the sky again," Antigua said in the August jailhouse interview. Against his attorney's advice, Antigua spoke with the Times because he wanted to clear his name. He said he grew up in Miami, the only child of divorced parents. He had two failed marriages and a long history of alcohol and substance abuse. In contrast to his messy life, Antigua also had a passion for the military and the Boy Scouts, organizations steeped in order, hierarchy and a foundation of helping others.
Antigua, who worked as a respiratory care therapist, came to New Port Richey two years ago for a fresh start. But he said he lost his job, became depressed and began drinking again. Pretending to be someone important was an escape, he said.
"I was actually filling that void inside of me," he said. "The void of emptiness, you know, of, sometimes, despair.
"Of wanting to feel better."
Antigua said he never hurt anyone and never impersonated officials until his time in New Port Richey. The old badges were made to impress women, he said.
"It was low self-esteem, wanting to think that I might have been able to achieve those things and I didn't," Antigua said.
Steffens said Thursday the case increased awareness with citizens and within law enforcement to always be vigilant.
"It's certainly opened up my eyes to the possibilities, the depths and the length people will go to impersonate law enforcement," he said.
Erin Sullivan can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6229.