Florida condo collapse victims targeted by identity thieves, devastating grief-stricken families

Some of the residents that died in the South Florida condominium collapse have become the targets of crime as their loved ones seek closure.

Scammers have used the names of the victims of the June 24 collapse of the 12-story Champlain Towers South to open credit cards in their names and raid their bank accounts.

Gladys and Antonio Lozano became victims of identity theft on the day of their funeral, after being found in their bed together amidst the rubble. According to their son Sergio Lozano who lived across the street and spoke to WSVN News, the thieves managed to snatch their money through Zelle after providing a change of address and setting up online banking for his parents.

“I find it totally devastating, after losing my parents, that I have to deal with all the estate issues, and now I’m having to deal with somebody stealing from my parents,” Lozano said. “After they’re dead and buried, they’re stealing from them?”

“It’s just wrong, just wrong,” he continued. “How many people have perished in that building, and how many people have had their money stolen while they’re dead in the rubble, which is not right? You should get arrested, and you should go to jail.”

Several investigations involving identity theft for the condominium collapse victims are pending but no arrests have been made.

“It’s the revictimization of the victims that we’re sort of starting to experience right now with these hackers,” Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett told NBC Miami.

“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,” Burkett said.

“We’ve seen multiple cases already,” he added.

Joe Murphy told reporters he was “literally shaking” because he was so shocked and disturbed at the thought of these people who had already suffered tragedy being the target of the thefts. He lost a close friend that he considered family, Estelle Hedayahe, in the collapse.

“All I can say is how low can you go?” Murphy said. “Here we are setting up a fund in her name for St. Jude’s Hospital, doing something right, that’s the way things should be done, not this crap.”

“It’s terrible,” Burkett told Local 10 News. “I can’t wait to put a face to these deeds right now, and I think all of South Florida is eager to see who would do something like this – what kind of person would do something like this. But I’m looking forward to our police department apprehending them, and they are out there looking. I wouldn’t want to be that person right now.”

Last month, Jake Samuelson said he had received several calls from his grandparent’s landline after they were suspected victims of the collapse. Each time he answered, there was only static.

“We are trying to rationalize what is happening here, we are trying to get answers,” Samuelson told the TV station.


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