SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) A statewide identity theft crime ring has been shut down by the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office. The ringleader was an official at the Department of Children and Families.
Last month, Sarasota county deputies got a call about a fraudulent purchase at the Mall at UTC. It seemed like a rather routine case but they soon uncovered a statewide criminal enterprise with a DCF employee at the top.
“The alleged actions of the individual involved in this investigation took critical resources away from the children and families who needed it the most,” said Department of Children and Family Services Assistant Secretary for Economic Self-Sufficiency Taylor Hatch.
48-year-old Bertanicy Garcia was an interviewing clerk at the Department of Children and Family Services in Miami. She had no criminal record and worked there since 1993. But they discovered she stole social security numbers, driver’s license information, and private data from men, women and children in the DCF system.
She then passed it off to experienced criminals who created fake driver’s licenses and credit card accounts.
“Some of the other individuals were requesting from her Sarasota individuals, this zip code, Hispanic male, it was an ala carte information if you will,” said SCSO Col. Kurt Hoffman.
They bought luxurious, expensive merchandise. The crime ring impacted more than 2,000 Floridians, and it yielded more than a quarter million dollars in retail theft. It also ruined lives.
“There was a woman who was trying to purchase a home and her credit is messed up and she’s not going to be able to buy a home until this is straightened out,” said Hoffman.
The group is based out of the Miami area. Five have been arrested, two are still on the loose.
Garcia has been fired. DCF officials are contacting everyone who was victimized in this scheme and they will be provided with free identity theft protection.
This serves as a reminder to always keep tabs on your bank statements.