Florida police arrest three accused of stealing condo victims’ identities
Sep 09, 2021 - 08:26 AM
MIAMI — Florida police on Wednesday arrested three people accused of stealing the identities of victims of the June condo collapse near Miami that killed 98 people.
The suspects are alleged to have assumed the identities of five people who died in the collapse, plus two survivors, in order to open new credit cards, Miami-Dade prosecutor Katherine Fernandez Rundle said during a press conference.
The suspects used the cards to buy items such as shoes and luxury handbags and to make bank transfers.
They purchased at least $45,000 worth of goods in total.
The suspects were identified as Betsy Alejandra Cacho-Medina, her boyfriend Rodney Choute, and Kimberley Michelle Johnson.
“These individuals appear to be very skilled identity thieves. They’re professionals,” Fernandez Rundle said.
They face charges of conspiracy to defraud, identity theft and using false documents, among other offenses.
The investigation began July 9, when the sister of one of the victims of the collapse in Surfside, near Miami Beach, realized that someone was tampering with her late sister’s bank details, and she called the police.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, who spent weeks making daily visits to the site of the search and rescue effort, condemned the alleged fraud.
“What a tragedy that anyone would seek to exploit this situation,” she said told the press conference.
The 12-story beachfront Champlain Towers South partially collapsed in the middle of the night June 24 in Surfside, north of Miami Beach.
A teenager was rescued from the rubble within hours, but first responders didn’t find any other survivors and the operation eventually turned to one of recovering remains.
The exact cause of the collapse is still unknown and under investigation.