3 Arrested on Charges of Stealing Identifies of Surfside Condo Victims

  • Three people were arrested in connection to a scheme stealing identities of victims of the Surfside collapse.
  • Authorities said they stole the identities of at least seven victims, creating fraudulent cards and spending thousands of dollars on them.
  • “Today they got what they deserved, and we’re all much happier for it,” Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said.

Three people were arrested Wednesday in connection to an alleged scheme using stolen identities of victims of the Surfside condominium collapse to open fraudulent credit and debit cards and spend thousands of dollars on them.

In July, officials first reported that Surfside victims’ identities were being stolen by an unidentified hacker, urging families of victims to check their credit in case they were targeted, WPLG reported.

“It’s terrible,” Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett told WPLG at the time. “I can’t wait to put a face to these deeds right now, and I think all of South Florida is eager to see who would do something like this – what kind of person would do something like this.”

Betsy Alejandra Cacho-Medina, 30, Rodney Choute, 38, and Kimberly Michelle Johnson, 34, were taken into custody Wednesday morning. They were charged on multiple counts, including fraud and counterfeiting, and could face 15 to 30 years in prison if convicted, according to a WPLG report.

Investigators said the trio stole the identities of at least seven victims of the June 24 collapse of Champlain Towers South — five who died and two who survived, according to WPLG.

“Cyber grave robbers moved very quickly after the collapse to grab what they could from deceased victims,” Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle told reporters during a Wednesday press conference.

“For a group of alleged identity thieves, it was a time to make some money, and that’s what this was about,” Fernandez Rundle said.

During the press conference, authorities played an audio clip of a woman — whom authorities identified as Medina — posing as someone named Ms. Ortiz who survived the condominium collapse and wanted a replacement card. Surveillance footage captured the woman ID’d as Medina spending $2,500 on the credit card, including a Versace handbag.

“Today they got what they deserved, and we’re all much happier for it,” Burkett said Wednesday.

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