Multiple victims of the collapse of the Champlain Towers South condominium in Surfside, Fla., allegedly had their identities stolen by three people who went on a luxury shopping spree.
Betsy Alejandro Cacho-Medina, Kimberly Michelle Johnson and Rodney Choute are facing multiple charges in connection with identity theft, authorities said Wednesday.
They are accused of stealing at least $45,000, and attempting to steal another $67,000.
Miami-Dade County State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said in a news conference that the actions of the thieves were first identified by a sister of a deceased victim on July 9, roughly 16 days after the building collapsed.
The woman told the Surfside Police Department that she noticed her sister's mailing address had changed and replacement credit cards were requested after the collapse. There were also multiple wire transfers from her sister's account, and several fraudulent purchases on the replacement credit cards, authorities said.
Rundle said the suspects stole the identities of at least seven victims of the building collapse, two of whom are still alive. Two other alleged victims of identity theft were not part of the building collapse.
“These individuals appear to be very skilled identity thieves. They’re professionals,” Rundle said. “Except for their names, almost nothing else about them seems to be true.”
The suspects were charged with organized scheme to defraud, identity theft, trafficking of credit cards and use of counterfeit and fictitious ID. Bond for the defendants was set at $1 million for Cacho-Medina, $500,000 for Johnson, and $430,000 for Choute.
Another individual, Nelson Ronaldo Garcia-Medina, was also arrested and appeared alongside the other three suspects in court on Thursday, according to CBS Miami. He was not mentioned in Rundle’s Wednesday news conference.
All four suspects were in Miami-Dade jail as of Friday, the news outlet reported.
At lest 97 people died after the June 23 collapse of the condominium that led to weeks of frantic search-and-rescue efforts.
Updated at 11:01 a.m.