MIAMI — A fourth person has been charged with stealing the identities of victims of a South Florida apartment collapse that killed 98 people, officials said.
Nelson Ronaldo Garcia-Medina, 20, was arrested Wednesday, but his name was not included when Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle held a news conference that afternoon to announce the three cases. arrested on multiple charges. At that time, she thought that there might be other accomplices in the case.
Garcia-Medina is the brother of Betsy Alejandra Cacho-Medina, 30, who was arrested Wednesday morning along with Kimberly Michelle Johnson, 34, and Rodney Choute, 38. Each faces between 15 and 30 years in prison.
News agencies reported that Garcia-Medina was accused of faking the identity of a person who died in the Champlain South tower collapse on June 24 to buy a pair of Air Jordan sneakers worth $130.
“These individuals appear to be very skilled identity thieves, they are professionals,” Fernandez Rundle said Wednesday. “Except for their names, almost nothing else about them seems to be true.”
Authorities were first notified of the possible fraudulent activity on July 9, when the sister of one of the dead victims contacted Surfside police, officials said. The sister noticed password changes to the victim’s bank accounts and credit cards, as well as new addresses and contact information.
Officials said none of the new addresses were the whereabouts of the identity thieves. Investigators said the group was using a range of drop locations, adding that it was a common tactic used in fraud schemes.
Multiple agencies have been involved in the fraud investigation, including Miami-Dade police, Surfside police, Aventura police, United States Secret Service, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and U.S. Marshals Service .
Officials are still trying to determine what caused the 40-year-old building to collapse years after initial warnings of serious structural flaws. Debris was removed from the scene and taken to a warehouse near Miami International Airport for inspection.
Cacho-Medina, Garcia-Media, Choute and Johnson all remained at the Miami-Dade prison on Friday morning. Prison records do not list attorneys who can speak for them.