MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – A fourth suspect accused of participating in an intricate scheme to steal the identities of victims of the Surfside condo collapse has been arrested.
Detectives say Nelson Ronaldo Garcia-Medina, 20, used the name of a person killed in the tragedy to buy a $130 pair of sneakers.
His arrest comes after Betsy Alejandra Cacho-Medina, 30, Kimberly Michelle Johnson, 34, and Rodney Choute, 38, were taken into custody in the scheme Wednesday morning. They face 15-30 years if convicted of their various charges.
Authorities say Garcia-Medina is Cacho-Medina’s brother. He was also arrested Wednesday, court records show, but his name was not included when State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle held a news conference Wednesday afternoon announcing the initial arrests. She had said that the investigation is ongoing that there may be more co-conspirators.
According to an arrest report, detectives executed a search warrant at Garcia-Medina’s home Wednesday and found a notebook “that contained written instructions on how to obtain free credit reports in [victims’] names as well as instructions on how to conduct sim swaps over the phone.”
Investigators say sim swaps are a tactic used by this “fraud group” to contact a victim’s phone carrier and use their personal information “to illegally swap the victim’s phone number to a new phone without the victim’s knowledge or consent.”
Detectives say they also found merchandise and receipts showing the use of stolen credit cards to make purchases.
That included one receipt from a purchase using the stolen identity of a person killed in the June 24 collapse of the Champlain Towers South. Garcia-Medina is accused of using that identity to buy a $130 pair of Jordan sneakers that were found in his room.
He was taken to Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center.
His sister Cacho-Medina is allegedly heard on audio calling a credit card company and claiming to be a victim of the condo collapse, then seen in surveillance video shopping at Bloomingdale’s in the Aventura Mall using a stolen card.
Several law enforcement agencies spent months tracking down the suspects. Authorities called them professionals, saying that pretty much nothing about them — their IDs, their car registrations, their addresses — were legitimate.
“Cyber grave robbers moved very quickly after the collapse to grab what they could from deceased victims,” Fernandez Rundle said.
She said that at least seven victims of the condo collapse — five who are deceased and two who survived — had their identities stolen, but there could be more victims.
If you believe you or someone you know may be a victim of such a crime, you are urged to call a hotline set up at 786-801-6086.