Three people are under arrest and accused of stealing from several victims of the recent deadly condominium collapse in Florida.
Betsy Alexandra Cacho Medina, 30, Rodney Choute, 38, and Kimberly Michelle Johnson, 34, were taken into custody on Sept. 8 and charged with multiple counts related to fraud and counterfeiting, the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office said.
“Cyber grave robbers did move very quickly after the collapse to grab what they could from deceased victims while family and friends were in absolute emotional turmoil,” State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said. “Their motto could’ve been ‘Your loss is our gain.’”
“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."
On June 24, 98 people lost their lives when the 40-year-old Champlain Towers South condominium in Surfside collapsed in the middle of the night.
Investigators began looking into the alleged fraud scheme on July 9 when the sister of one person who died noticed the victim’s bank account and credit card passwords had changed and address and contact information was updated.
The suspects allegedly also had replacement cards sent to new addresses. According to officials, the addresses were drop locations at which none of the three arrested lived.
The accused thieves allegedly stole around $45,000 through making both cash transfers as well as purchasing pricey items using the stolen credit and debit cards, including a $1,700 Versace bag. Bank officials and retailers were able to prevent fraudulent activity totaling another $67,000, investigators said.
“The day of the funeral they began the process, and after they’re dead and buried, they’re stealing from them? It’s just wrong. Just wrong,” said Sergio Lozano, whose parents died in the condo collapse.
Cacho-Medina is being held on a $1 million bond, Johnson is being held on a $500,000 bond and Choute is being held on a $430,000 bond, according to Miami’s WSVN.