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Fourth Person Charged In Identity Theft Of Surfside Condo Collapse Victims

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MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) – A fourth person is accused of stealing the identities of victims of the Champlain Towers South collapse in Surfside.

Nelson Ronaldo Garcia-Medina, 20, joined Betsy Alejandra Cacho-Medina, Rodney Choute, and Kimberly Johnson in a court appearance on Thursday.

Garcia-Medina is the brother of Betsy Alejandra Cacho-Medina.

(left to right) Betsy Alexandra Cacho Medina, Rodney Choute, and Kimberly Michelle. (Source: Miami-Dade Corrections)

They all face multiple counts of identity theft, organized scheme to defraud, and trafficking in stolen credit cards.

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Garcia-Medina is accused of assuming the identity of someone killed in the June 24 collapse that killed 98 people to buy a $130 pair of Air Jordan sneakers.

“These individuals appear to be very skilled identity thieves, they’re professionals,” said Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle. “Except for their names, almost nothing else about them seems to be true.”

Authorities were first notified of possible fraudulent activity on July 9, when the sister of one of the deceased victims contacted Surfside police. The sister had noticed password changes to the victim’s bank accounts and credit cards, as well as new addresses and contact information.

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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.

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.

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Cacho-Medina, Garcia-Media, Choute, and Johnson all remained in the Miami-Dade jail on Friday morning.

They each face 15 to 30 years in prison.

(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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