Three people have been arrested for stealing the identities of some victims in June’s deadly South Florida condominium building collapse, prosecutors announced.
30-year-old Betsy Alejandra Cacho-Medina, 34-year-old Kimberly Michelle Johnson, and 38-year-old Rodney Choute were arrested on multiple counts of fraud and identity theft, Reuters reports. The trio have been accused of stealing the identities of at least seven people, five of whom died in the June 24 collapse of the Champlain Towers South condo. The other two, it turns out, survived the collapse.
“Cyber grave robbers did move very quickly after the collapse to grab what they could while family and friends were in absolute emotional turmoil,” said Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle at a news conference this week. “This investigation has also shown that these individuals appeared to be very skilled identity thieves and professionals. Except for their names, almost nothing else about seemed to be true.”
Utilizing the names of seven people who lived at the condo complex, they were able to obtain credit cards and make transactions of up to $50,000 in total. They allegedly used vacant residences as addresses for the delivery of these fraudulent credit cards.
“This is the last thing that anybody involved with Surfside needs right now,” Pablo Rodriguez, who lost his mother and grandmother in the tower collapse, told WPLG. “Assuming we are not involved, it’s still devastating. It brings back all of the feelings that you had that day, tarnishes their memories. It starts to weigh on you and kind of erodes some of the good faith out of everybody that did so much good immediately afterwards.”
The final victim of the condo collapse was confirmed dead just over a month after it happened, bringing the total death toll to 98. A letter from earlier in the year indicated that people were aware of the worsening conditions of the building. “The concrete deterioration is accelerating. The roof situation got much worse, so extensive roof repairs had to be incorporated,” read the letter, which said the building needed $15 million in repairs.
It is believed that the trio’s fraud scheme began sometime in early July after investigators noticed they made calls to financial institutions claiming to be multiple people who had actually died in the collapse. Among those targeted in their scheme was a husband who lost his wife in the collapse.
Bond for Cacho-MEdina has been set at $1 million, while Johnson’s is at $500,000, and Choute’s is at $430,000. The official cause of the collapse has yet to be determined, but as previously mentioned the letter detailing the condition of the building cited a 2018 engineering report that found it was in dire need of repairs.
That’s cold blooded scamming.