News and Commentary

Arrests Made In Alleged Identity Theft Of Surfside Collapse Victims

   DailyWire.com
Investigation Continues At Site Of Surfside Building Collapse SURFSIDE, FLORIDA - JULY 31: In this aerial view, the cleared lot that was where the collapsed 12-story Champlain Towers South condo building once stood on July 31, 2021 in Surfside, Florida. A total of 98 people died when the building partially collapsed on June 24, 2021. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images) Joe Raedle / Staff via Getty Images
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Several victims of the tragic Surfside, Florida, condo collapse earlier this year allegedly had their identities stolen by a group of people. 

As reported by The Hill, three people face several charges connected to identity theft, as announced by authorities on Wednesday. The three face accusations of stealing a minimum of $45,000, which does not include an additional $67,000 that they tried to take. 

The Hill reported: 

Miami-Dade County State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said in a news conference that the actions of the thieves were first identified by a sister of a deceased victim on July 9, roughly 16 days after the building collapsed.

The sister told the Surfside Police Department that she had noticed the victim’s mailing address had changed and replacement credit cards were requested after the collapse. There were also multiple wire transfers from the deceased victim’s account, and several fraudulent purchases on the replacement credit cards, authorities said.

Rundle said the suspects stole the identities of at least seven victims of the building collapse, two of whom are not deceased. There were also two other victims that were not part of the building collapse.

“These individuals appear to be very skilled identity thieves. They’re professionals,” Fernandez Rundle said. “Except for their names, almost nothing else about them seems to be true.”

“We discussed that cyber-grave robbers move quickly after the collapse to grab what they could from deceased victims while families and friends were in emotional turmoil,” Fernandez Rundle also said. 

“Their motto could’ve been, ‘Your loss is our gain’,” she added.

“Today, they got what they deserved,” Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said about the suspects.

In July, Burkett said that crooks were looking to take advantage of victims of the tragedy. 

“It’s the revictimization of the victims that we’re sort of starting to experience right now with these hackers,” Burkett said at the time. “They’ve seen the names in the paper, they’re going right to that and we’ve had to have discussions with the families and listen to them telling us the stories about all of a sudden credit cards appearing in their names and things being purchased in their name, so we’ve told ‘em, you’ve got to immediately shut down your credit.”

As Fox News reported, the three alleged robbers are set to appear in bond court on Thursday. They were expected to be held Wednesday night at the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center on various amounts of $1 million, $500,000, and $430,000 bonds. 

At the end of July, a final missing person from the partial building collapse was identified, bringing the death toll to 98 people.

As NBC News previously reported, “Officials had originally said that as many as 159 people were unaccounted for, but detectives worked for weeks to cross-check reports of missing people that may have been multiples or already accounted for.” 

“The recovery and identification of the last remains do not mark the end of sifting through the debris. Crews are still digging out evidence to be catalogued for the investigation and personal belongings — including religious items, firearms, photo albums and jewelry — to hopefully return to the victims’ families,” the outlet noted at the time.

No final cause has been determined for what led to the building collapsing, but there may have been prior indications and warnings that the building was unstable. Materials have been taken from the area to a nearby facility close to the Miami International Airport for inspection, per Fox News.