“They’re professionals,” Katherine Fernández Rundle, the Miami-Dade state attorney, said in a news conference about the accused thieves. “It was really horrible what they did, to prey further on the family members of the deceased.”
She called them “cyber grave robbers.”
The authorities charged Betsy Alexandra Cacho Medina, 30, and Rodney Choute, 38, both of North Miami, and Kimberly Michelle Johnson, 34, of Miami, with organizing a scheme to defraud and with multiple counts of identity fraud. Prosecutors identified Mr. Choute as Ms. Medina’s boyfriend and Ms. Johnson as her associate.
In all, the three stole at least $45,000 and attempted to steal an additional $67,000, Ms. Fernández Rundle said. Among the high-end purchases made in Ms. Ortiz’s name, according to an arrest affidavit for Ms. Medina, were a $1,658 Versace purse bought in Miami’s Design District and a $374 pair of Medusa sandals bought at a Nordstrom in Aventura Mall.
James E. Lee, the chief operating officer of the Identity Theft Resource Center, a nonprofit organization, said identity thieves have learned to pounce after tragedies where people become displaced, such as the condo collapse, or in the wake of hurricanes, wildfires and floods.
“They have a game plan that they roll out every time there’s an event like this,” he said. “They will try to impersonate someone who’s been incapacitated or where there has been a fatality.”