3 arrests made in Surfside condo collapse victim identity thefts, officials say

Florida

MIAMI (WFLA) — Prosecutors say three people have been arrested on charges involving the theft of the identities of some of the victims of June’s deadly South Florida condominium building collapse.

At a news conference Wednesday, Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said three “cyber grave robbers” targeted at least seven of the collapse victims, including five who were killed.

The oceanfront condominium in Surfside collapsed in the early morning hours of June 24, killing 98 people. Investigators are still trying to determine what caused the 40-year-old building to collapse years after initial warnings about serious structural flaws.

Fernandez Rundle said the suspects posed as the victims to order replacement credit cards that were mailed to alternate addresses. Once they had the credit cards, the suspects made a number of purchases and wire transfers, Fernandez Rundle said.

All told, the suspect stole at least $45,000 worth of goods and attempted to steal more than $60,000 more, Fernandez Rundle said.

“These individuals appear to be very skilled identity thieves, they’re professionals,” Fernandez Rundle said.

Arrested in the scheme were Bettsy Alejandra Cacho-Medina, Kimberly Michelle Johnson, and Cacho-Medina’s boyfriend, Rodney Choute, officials said.

All face charges including organized scheme to defraud, identity fraud, use of a counterfeit ID, unlawful use of a two-way communication device, and possession of counterfeit driver’s license.

Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, who spent weeks at the site meeting with families and giving updates on the efforts to find survivors, commented on the arrests Wednesday.

“We’ve worked so hard to do everything we can to restore the lives of those families who lost their loved ones and the survivors of the building collapse. What a tragedy that anyone would seek to exploit this situation,” she said.

Debris has been cleared from the site and taken to a warehouse near the Miami International Airport for examination.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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