Miami -- Three people
have been arrested for stealing the identities of some
victims in June's deadly South Florida condominium building
collapse, prosecutors announced Wednesday.
Betsy Alexandra Cacho
Medina, 30, Rodney Choute, 38, and Kimberly Michelle
Johnson, 34, were arrested earlier Wednesday on multiple
charges related to fraud and counterfeiting, the Miami-Dade
State Attorney’s Office announced during a news conference.
Officials have identified at least five deceased and two
living victims from the building, but the investigation
continues and additional victims could be found, State
Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said.
“These individuals appear to be very skilled identity
thieves, they're professionals,” Fernandez Rundle said.
"Except for their names, almost nothing else about them
seems to be true."
Champlain Towers South condominium in Surfside collapsed in
the early hours of June 24, killing 98 people. Authorities
were first notified of possible fraudulent activity on July
9, when the sister of one of the deceased victims contacted
Surfside police, officials said. The sister had noticed
password changes to the victim's bank accounts and credit
cards, as well as new addresses and contact information.
None of the new addresses were the residences of the
identity thieves, officials said. The group was using a
series of drop locations, investigators said, adding that is
a common tactic used in fraud schemes. The group managed to
steal about $45,000 through illegal cash transfers and by
making expensive purchases with fraudulently obtained credit
and debit cards. Investigators said security workers at
banks and retailers managed to stop another $67,000 in
Multiple agencies were involved in the fraud investigation,
including Miami-Dade police, Surfside police, Aventura
police, the U.S. Secret Service, the U.S. Postal Inspection
Service and the U.S. Marshals Service.
Officials are still trying to determine what caused the
40-year-old building to collapse years after initial
warnings about serious structural flaws. Debris has been
cleared from the site and taken to a warehouse near the
Miami International Airport for examination.
Jail records didn't list attorneys for Cacho Medina, Choute