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Suspects who stole Surfside condo collapse victims' identities to go shopping are caught

Rescue mission in Surfside, Florida turns into recovery effort

Fox News correspondent Phil Keating has the latest on the condo collapse recovery efforts on ‘Special Report’

Several people have been arrested and charged with stealing the identities of the victims of the June 24 collapse of a condominium complex in Surfside, Florida, officials announced Wednesday. 

The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office announced there will be a press conference in Miami at 2 p.m. ET Wednesday to provide further details “about the arrests made in the identity theft cases which targeted victims in the collapse of the Champlain Tower South Condominium.” 

Those arrested include Betsy Alexandra Cacho Medina, 30, Rodney Choute, 38, and Kimberly Michelle Johnson, 34, the Miami Herald first reported prior to the press conference, citing law enforcement sources. Charges includes organized scheme to defraud and several counts of identity fraud. 

The trio allegedly commandeered the identities of at least five Surfside victims, three dead and two survivors, according to the Herald, to open credit cards and make fraudulent purchases. 

Search and rescue personnel remove remains on a stretcher as they work atop the rubble at the Champlain Towers South condo building where scores of people remain missing more than a week after it partially collapsed, Friday, July 2, 2021, in Surfside, Florida.
(AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

The 12-story Champlain Tower South Condominium suddenly collapsed during the early morning hours on June 24, killing 98 people and leaving just three survivors who were pulled from the rubble. Two of the three survivors spoke out for the first time during an NBC “Today” show interview aired last week. 

Angela Gonzalez, 45, and her 16-year-old daughter Deven, described being up around 1:30 a.m. watching a horror film when they heard a loud noise and floor caved from under them. Gonzalez’s husband, and Deven’s father, who was in the bed with them, did not survive. 

About a month after the incident, Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett described how the relatives of those killed have begun coming forward to report credit cards being opened and purchases being made in the names of the victims. He warned that thieves had taken advantage of victims’ names being published in newspapers and by media outlets around the country, WTVJ reported. 

Those hosting the press conference Wednesday include Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle, Miami-Dade Police Major Fernand Charles, Aventura Police Chief Bryan Pegues, Surfside Police Acting Chief, Capt. John Healy, U.S. Secret Service Special Agent in Charge Brian Swain, U.S. Postal Inspector Joe Cronin, and U.S. Marshal Gadyaces “Gady” Serralta. 

Investigators are still trying to determine what caused the 40-year-old building to collapse years after initial warnings about serious structural flaws. Debris has been cleared from the site and taken to a warehouse near the Miami International Airport for examination.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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