The mayor of Surfside, Florida, said police are searching for a criminal suspected of stealing the identities of victims killed in the partial collapse of the Champlain Towers South condominium last month.
“Multiple” people killed in the June 24 collapse have subsequently had their identities stolen, Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett told Miami’s Local 10 News in an interview the TV station aired Friday night.
“I think that 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,” said Mr. Burkett. “I wouldn’t want to be that person right now.”
Surfside Police Chief Julio Yero confirmed Saturday that his department recently opened a fraud investigation related to victims of the June 24 condo collapse but declined to provide further information.
“In order to protect the integrity of this case and prevent further victimization, we are not releasing additional details at this time,” the police chief told The Washington Times in an emailed message.
Rescue crews have recovered the remains of nearly 100 people from the condo’s rubble in the weeks following its collapse. As of Friday, authorities have identified 94 of 97 victims, Local 10 News reported.
Citing unnamed officials, Local 10 News first reported that officials said that someone has been seeing the names of the victims being reported in the news media and then stealing their identities.
Mr. Burkett, Surfside‘s mayor, said in the interview that he recently met with relatives of some of the victims and warned them about the instances of identity theft.
“This person is using this technique in cookie-cutter style and applying it to others,” Mr. Burkett said in the interview.
Additional details including the precise number of victims and the he specific method used by the person or persons stealing their identities were not immediately clear.