Harry Wilmerding on September 9, 2021
Three people were arrested and charged Wednesday for stealing from victims of the Surfside condo collapse, local authorities reported.
Bettsy Alejandra Cacho-Medina, Rodney Choute and Kimberly Michelle Johnson, face charges including “organized scheme to defraud, identity theft, trafficking in credit cards, use of counterfeit and fictitious ID” violations related to theft from five victims and two survivors of the Surfside condo collapse, said Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle in a press conference Wednesday.
“The loss of 98 lives was and still is painfully tragic. But for a group of alleged identity thieves, it was a time to make some money,” Rundle added. Authorities were first alerted to the fraud in July after one victim’s sister noticed requests for credit cards in the victim’s name mailed to a new address, Rundle said.
“The night before her funeral, I was doing the eulogy and for some reason I started looking at her iPad and I noticed there were email notifications … And when I opened the email I noticed they started changing all of the bank accounts, especially from Wells Fargo,” Annie Ortiz, sister of victim Nicole Ortiz, told WPLG.
Rundle called the suspects “cyber grave robbers” during the press conference, and she said the investigation is ongoing.
“Right now, we estimate that these characters, who were quick to rob the deceased, have successfully stolen at least $45,000, and that does not include another $67,000 … that they tried to steal.”
Bond is set at $1 million for Medina, $500,000 for Johnson and $430,000 for Choute, according to Rundle.
The 12-story condo complex in Surfside, Florida, collapsed on June 24.
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