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Three Arrested for Theft of Identities of Champlain Towers Victims

Credit: Unsplash

Back in July, several weeks after the collapse of the Champlain Towers South condominium in Surfside, Florida, a sister of one of the victims of the collapse received a notice that a new credit card had been issued in her sibling’s name to be sent to an address she didn’t recognize. This was followed by multiple unauthorized wire transfers from her sibling’s account to other accounts, which she also didn’t recognize.

This was the instigating discovery that led to today’s arrest of three Florida residents, Betsy Alexandra Cacho Medina, Rodney Choute and Kimberly Michelle Johnson. These three people had stolen the identities of at least seven deceased victims of the condo collapse and used their information to order credit cards, make wire transfers, and overall spend at least $45,000 in their names. One of them made a $374 purchase of a pair of Nordstrom sandals, while another bought a $1,658.50 Versace purse.

Local authorities were able to track the suspects to an abandoned apartment they were using as a “drop-off” address for online purchases, thanks to the address’ connection to a car plate that was captured in shopping mall security footage.

“These individuals appear to be very skilled identity thieves. They’re professionals,” said Florida State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle at a press conference. “Except for their names, almost nothing else about them seems to be true.” Rundle also added that the three had even gone as far as to create false social security cards.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava condemned the suspects for their disrespect of the dead, and praised local law enforcement for finding them. “I’m so very, very grateful that this great team is bringing justice to these people and helping to restore the peace and tranquility to those who were already so harmed by this tragic building collapse,” she said.

Bond for the suspects’ crimes has been set at $1 million for Medina, $500,000 for Johnson and $430,000 for Choute.

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