SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office are charging seven people in connection with Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) data breach that affected at least 2,000 Florida residents.
After a two-month investigation involving several law enforcement agencies, five people were arrested, among them a DCFS employee. Authorities are still looking for two others.
The investigation started in May 2019, when a retailer in the University of Town Center contacted authorities after they suspected fraudulent activity. According to the release, after detectives worked with loss prevention, they identified the suspects as 39-year-old Roxana Ruiz and 43-year-old Eduardo Lamigueiro, who were allegedly using the personal information Florida residents to open credit card accounts for the purchase of more than $6,000 in merchandise.
Both suspects from Miami were arrested on charges of Fraud, Grand Theft, and Criminal Use of Personal Identification on May 23, 2019 and released two days later on bond.
Through a search warrant, deputies searched their vehicle, recovering cash, a handgun, several pieces of stolen merchandise, and several cellphones. Deputies say their cell phones showed dozens of images of receipts, counterfeit driver’s licenses, and personal information including addresses, birth dates, phone numbers and social security numbers of unknown people.
Deputies say the pair allegedly committed over 40 transactions throughout the state of Florida and almost $260,000 in retail theft.
In one of the cell phones, deputies say they found more than 500 photos of personal information tied to both adult and child victims that they say were sent by 48-year-old Bertanicy Garcia to Lamigueiro. Garcia was employed at the time by DCFS as an Interviewing Clerk in the Miami office and detectives say they confirmed the information was accessed using the DCFS database.
“Garcia, in a crucially important position as a state employee, took advantage of the system," Colonel Kurt Hoffman with the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office said during a press conference Tuesday morning. "[She] took advantage of the taxpayers and took advantage of the people in need, including both adults and children.”
Detectives say four others, including 43-year-old Jose Perez, 58-year-old Nelson Cobo-Hernandez, 30-year-old Marcos Cobo-Gonzales and 44-year-old Junior Perodin Verges, were also involved in the crime ring.
“Cyber crime and fraud isn’t going away any time soon,” warned Colonel Hoffman. “So long as your personal information is out there, criminals will try to access that personal information. Continue to stay vigilant, looking daily at your credit card statements and bank accounts. Keep an eye out for unexplained charges and listen carefully when you receive calls from creditors or retailers.”
Garcia has been fired from DCFS and all except Roxana Ruiz and Eduardo Lamigueiro have been arrested.
“The alleged actions of the individual involved in this investigation took critical resources away from the children and families that needed it the most," said Taylor Hatch, Department of Children and Family Services Assistant Secretary for Economic Self-Sufficiency.
The charges in this case include:
- Bertanicy Garcia of Miami is charged with two counts of Criminal Use of Personal Identification More than 30 Times.
- Eduardo Lamigueiro of Miami is wanted by authorities. Warrants have been issued for his arrest. He is charged with Criminal Use of Personal Identification More than 30 Times, Criminal Use of Personal Identification Information, and Grand Theft Less than $5,000.
- Roxana Ruiz of Miami is wanted by authorities. Warrants have been issued for her arrest. She is charged is charged with Principal to Criminal Use of Personal Identification More than 30 Times.
- Jose Perez of Hialeah is charged with Criminal Use of Personal identification Information and Grand Theft Less Than $5,000.
- Nelson Cobo-Hernandez of Miami is charged with Principal to Criminal Use of Personal Identification More than 30 Times.
- Junior Perodin Verges of Hialeah is charged with Criminal Use of Personal Identification Information Greater than $5,000.
- Marcos Cobo-Gonzalez of Miami is charged with Principal to Criminal Use of Personal Identification More than 30 Times.
“From digital forensics to good old-fashioned police work, detectives did a tremendous job taking down what we believe is a very significant and dangerous organized fraud ring that has impacted and victimized people and businesses throughout the state of Florida. I am immensely proud today to announce the results of this operation and give credit to all who helped expose a group of people taking advantage of the system and taking advantage of more than 2,000 unsuspecting Floridians," Colonel Hoffman wrote.
The Sheriff’s Office says the investigation is ongoing and additional charges are pending.