SARASOTA, Fla. (PRESS RELEASE) – The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office has charged seven south Florida residents, including an employee of the Florida Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) in connection with a data breach that has compromised the identity of more than 2,000 Florida residents.
We reached out to DCFS officials to see if any of the Floridians who may have been impacted by this data breach were from northwest Florida; the department said they are actively coordinating with law enforcement to identify and confirm potential victims.
We’re told, once the victims are identified, DCF will begin notifying and will provide identity theft protection services. Department of Children and Families Secretary Chad Poppell also issued us this statement:
“The alleged actions of this individual took critical resources away from the children and families who needed them most,” Poppell said. “DCF has and will continue to support law enforcement in holding anyone responsible for exploiting families and violating the public’s trust accountable to the fullest extent of the law.
“Ensuring the security of confidential client information is a priority and legal responsibility of the Department of Children and Families. Following this arrest, the employee was immediately terminated and all access to DCF systems revoked,” Poppell added.
DCF officials said once the department learned of the data breach, Secretary Poppell ordered an immediate assessment of the department’s public benefits systems to enhance safeguards, identify process improvements and ensure that DCF operates with the highest level of integrity.
Officials with DCF also said the department will coordinate with the Department of Financial Services’ Division of Public Assistance Fraud to recover any benefits that were fraudulently obtained and make the necessary referrals to state and local law enforcement agencies for further action.
DCF also said it will enhance client security measures to include 24-hour recorded monitoring of all ACCESS storefront operations. Officials with DCF tell us the department has also begun researching options to coordinate with Governor DeSantis and the Legislature to seek additional funding to support critical enhancements for public benefits and policy changes.
The following press release was issued by the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office on Tuesday, July 2. It reads:
Detectives launched the initial investigation in May 2019 after being contacted by a retailer in the University Town Center (UTC) area in Sarasota about suspected fraudulent activity.
Detectives worked closely with loss prevention personnel to ultimately identify 39-year-old Roxana Ruiz and 43-year-old Eduardo Lamigueiro, who were using the personal information of unsuspecting victims to open credit card accounts for the purchase of more than $6,000 in merchandise. The duo, both from Miami, were arrested on charges of Fraud, Grand Theft, and Criminal Use of Personal Identification. They were booked into the Sarasota County Jail on May 23 and released two days later, on bond.
Based on evidence recovered in their vehicle, including cash, a handgun, several pieces of stolen merchandise and several cellphones, detectives continued their investigation. A search warrant was executed on their cellphones which revealed 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.
Based on the images, detectives determined the stolen information was used to perpetuate more than 40 transactions throughout the state of Florida, yielding an estimated $260,000 in retail theft.
Detectives continued to analyze the cellphones which revealed the phone number of 48-year-old Bertanicy Garcia, employed at the time by DCFS as an Interviewing Clerk, based out of their Miami office. Garcia sent more than 500 photos of personal information tied to both adult and child victims, to Lamigueiro. Detectives confirmed the information was accessed using the DCFS database.
Also connected to the organized crime ring is 43-year-old Jose Perez, from the Miami area. An investigation revealed Lamigueiro sent Perez stolen personal identification information that was later used to create fraudulent driver’s licenses that Perez used to make purchases at various retailers in the UTC area. Perez has prior arrests for Conspiracy to Commit Healthcare Fraud, Credit Card Forgery, Obstruction, and more.
Detectives believe the fraudulent driver’s licenses were created by 58-year-old Nelson Cobo-Hernandez and 44-year-old Junior Perodin Verges. The two have significant prior arrests for crimes including Auto Theft Conspiracy, Fraudulent use of Credit Cards, Grand Theft, Title Fraud, Sale of a Vehicle with an Altered ID, Vin Removal, and more.
Finally, detectives also connected 30-year-old Marcos Cobo-Gonzales with the fraud ring after recovering text messages and images sent to Cobo-Gonzalez from Lamigueiro that contained social security numbers. Detectives believe Gonzalez used the social security information for the purpose of tax fraud. He has prior arrests for crimes including Possession of a Counterfeit Credit Card, Fraud, Auto Theft, Obstruction, and more.
“The magnitude and complexity of this investigation really speaks to the high quality law enforcement services we are providing not only to Sarasota County, but also to the state of Florida,” commented Colonel Kurt A. Hoffman. “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.”
In late June, detectives worked in partnership with several law enforcement agencies including the U.S. Secret Service, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Miami-Dade Police Department, City of Miami Police Department, and Hialeah Police Department, to take five of the seven individuals into custody. Two are still at large.
* Bertanicy Garcia, DOB 02/27/71, of Miami, is charged with two counts of Criminal Use of Personal Identification More than 30 Times.
* Eduardo Lamigueiro, DOB 08/05/75, 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, DOB 09/11/80, 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, DOB 10/30/75, of Hialeah, is charged with Criminal Use of Personal identification Information and Grand Theft Less Than $5,000.
* Nelson Cobo-Hernandez, DOB 06/08/081, of Miami, is charged with Principal to Criminal Use of Personal Identification More than 30 Times.
* Junior Perodin Verges, DOB 10/11/74, of Hialeah, is charged with Criminal Use of Personal Identification Information Greater than $5,000.
* Marcos Cobo-Gonzalez, DOB 11/30/88, of Miami, is charged with Principal to Criminal Use of Personal Identification More than 30 Times.
Collectively, those arrested have 40 prior charges and five prior convictions. The investigation is ongoing and additional charges are pending. Garcia was terminated from DCFS.