Police identified Rodney Choute, 38, Betsy Alexandra Cacho Medina, 30, and Kimberly Michelle Johnson, 34, in an identity theft scheme targeting victims of the Surfside condo collapse. Authorities arrested several individuals in connection with the scheme. The group reportedly stole five victims’ identities, including those of three dead victims and two survivors.
The crime ring is accused of opening up credit cards in the victims’ names before making fraudulent purchases in a soulless shopping spree. Those identified were charged with organizing a scheme to defraud, as well as multiple counts of identity fraud, police said.
The Miami Herald only released three names, Betsy Alexandra Cacho Medina, Rodney Choute, and Kimberly Michelle Johnson. The ring, however, consisted of several individuals who were reportedly charged for the crime.
Detectives from Surfside, Aventura, and Miami-Dade launched an investigation into the identity theft scheme, which is to be detailed at a press conference on Wednesday. The U.S. Marshals, the U.S. Secret Service, and the Postal Inspectors also assisted in the investigation.
Officials are expected to reveal more names of the crime ring at a press conference at the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office. The revelation comes two months after the June 24 collapse of the Champlain Towers South. The disaster killed 98 people and is considered one of the worst building failures in U.S. history, reports claimed.
Many are excited about Wednesday’s press conference. Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett explained that he “can’t wait to put a face to these deeds right now, and I think all of South Florida is eager to see who would do something like this.” He continued, adding: “What kind of person would do something like this? I wouldn’t want to be that person right now.”
Betsy Alexandra Cacho Medina, Rodney Choute, and Kimberly Michelle Johnson have been arrested already, though it wasn’t clear if all perpetrators were taken into custody. According to the sister of one of the Surfside condo collapse victims, there were strange emails popping up on her sister’s iPad just before her funeral.
The emails notified the deceased victim that their passwords had been changed to various bank accounts and credit cards. The emails also showed changes to the victim’s registered address and contact information. Other emails detailed massive withdrawals and expensive purchases on the victim’s account.
The sister explained that “I was home writing the eulogy. I don’t know why, but I looked down. I saw notifications from Wells Fargo. I saw emails with money transfers. I didn’t even know she had a Wells Fargo account. It was crazy. These people are professional. Who would do something like this?”
This isn’t the first group to illegally profit off of the Miami Dade collapse. After the tragedy unfolded in late June, fake crowdfunding pages begun to appear which asked potential donors for funding to support victims of the building collapse.
At the time, officials urged people not to donate any money before visiting the Miami-Dade County Government Website. The website showed legitimate crowdfunding sources and warned of specific scams popping up around the internet.
The IRS released a statement as well, urging taxpayers to be wary of “scammers who have established fake organizations” in an attempt to take advantage of the heartbreaking incident. The IRS specifically warned of phone scams but also indicated that some faux organizations were using popular crowdfunding sites such as GoFundMe.
A GoFundMe spokesperson claimed that there was “no misuse” on the platform in connection with the Surfside collapse.
As of Sept. 8, investigators are still attempting to understand what happened to cause the Champlain Towers South to collapse. The 40-year-old building reportedly had serious structural flaws. Investigators reportedly found signs of extensive corrosion in the ruins. Authorities are still investigating the tragedy.