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'Stealing from the dead': Three arrested for allegedly stealing more than $45K from Surfside condo victims

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Days after the Surfside, Florida, condo collapse, three people stole more than $45,000 from seven victims and went on Christian Louboutin and Versace shopping sprees, Miami-Dade County State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said at a news conference Wednesday.

Rundle announced that Betsy Alexandra Cacho Medina, 30; Rodney Choute, 38; and Kimberly Michelle Johnson, 34, were arrested and charged with schemes to defraud and identity theft. They attempted to steal an additional $67,000, Rundle said.

On Friday, Rundle announced a fourth person has been accused of stealing the identities of victims. Nelson Ronaldo Garcia-Medina, 20, was arrested Wednesday and Rundle added there could be other co-conspirators in the case.

"For most of us and most of America, this unbelievable tragedy tore at our very hearts, but for a group of alleged identity thieves, it was a time to make some money," Rundle said at the news conference.

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Cacho Medina, who claimed to have survived the collapse, was identified as the lead suspect. In early July, Cacho Medina allegedly called Barclays Bank posing as Ana Ortiz, who died in the Champlain Towers South condominium. Cacho Medina requested a replacement credit card be expedited to a new address, Miami authorities said at the news conference.

Mourning the loss of her sister, Nicole Ortiz noticed email notifications on her sister's iPad, she told Florida TV station WLPG. There were notifications of changes to her sister's credit card mailing address, she said.

“They have stolen all her credit cards,” Ortiz told WLPG.

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On July 9, the day of her sister's funeral, Ortiz filed a police report that led to the discovery of other identity theft victims, Rundle said at the conference.

Rundle called the defendants skilled professionals and “cyber grave robbers.” The group also stole from Ana Ortiz’s husband, Frankie Kleiman, and condo residents Gladys and Antonio Lozano, all of whom died in the collapse, according to the news conference. The other three victims were not named.

The investigation found that Cacho Medina, Johnson and Choute allegedly used counterfeit Social Security cards. Johnson and Choute also used fake drivers’ licenses, according to authorities.

Sergio Lozano told WFOR in Miami the alleged theft started July 3, the day of his parents’ funeral. He noticed money transfers, a new online bank account under his mother’s name and a request for new debit cards. He filed a report and said the crimes left his family feeling betrayed, according to WFOR.

“I don’t find a more despicable crime than stealing from the dead,” Lozano told WFOR.

Associated Press contributed to this story.

Follow Gabriela Miranda on Twitter: @itsgabbymiranda

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Surfside victims' identities stolen, three arrested after shopping spree

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