Seven Florida residents face charges in statewide data breach

The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office 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 compromised the identity of more than 2,000 residents statewide.

A Sarasota retailer in the University Town Center reached out to SCSO detectives in May 2019 about fraudulent activity. An investigation found Roxana Ruiz, 39, and Eduardo Lamigueiro, 43, were using the personal information of unsuspecting victims to open credit card accounts for merchandise purchases exceeding $6,000, according to the SCSO press release. The suspects, 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, birthdates, phone numbers and social security numbers of unknown people, the press release states. 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 Bertanicy Garcia, 48, employed at the time by DCFS as an Interviewing Clerk, based out of their Miami office, per the release. 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 Jose Perez, 43, from the Miami area. 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, the release states. 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 Nelson Cobo-Hernandez, 58, and Junior Perodin Verges, 44, per the release. 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 Marcos Cobo-Gonzales, 30, 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, the press release states. He has prior arrests for crimes including Possession of a Counterfeit Credit Card, Fraud, Auto Theft, Obstruction, and more.

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.

Statement from Department of Children and Families Secretary Chad Poppell

The alleged actions of this individual took critical resources away from the children and families who needed them most. 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.

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.

Additionally, DCF will enhance client security measures to include 24-hour recorded monitoring of all ACCESS storefront operations. The department has begun researching options to coordinate with Governor DeSantis and the Legislature to seek additional funding to support critical enhancements for public benefits systems and policy changes.

DCF is actively coordinating with law enforcement to identify and confirm potential victims. Once the victims are identified, DCF will begin notifying and will provide identity theft protection services. Below is a statement from DCF Secretary Chad Poppell for use in your coverage on this investigation.

Secretary Poppell ordered an immediate assessment of the department’s public benefits systems to enhance safeguards, identify process improvements, and ensure that our program operates with the highest level of integrity.

Immediate actions include:

Restoring Client Confidence

  • Purchase identity/credit monitoring and recovery services for known victims.
  • Monitory client’s personal identifying information for fraud
  • Request an Office of Inspector General review of the situation to see if it could/should have been prevented or detected earlier.

Infrastructure Enhancements

  • Install cameras in all DCF buildings that interact/ assist clients with public assistance benefits. To help ensure the integrity of employees working directly with clients.
  • Ensure every store front location is staff with an armed security guard.

Policy Reviews/Recommendations

  • Integrity Pledge – All new and existing employees will sign a pledge recognizing and accepting the responsibility as a member of the Department of Children and Families team to uphold the Department’s Integrity Policy.
  • Confidential Case File – Helps ensure DCF staff are not accessing or approving other employee cases and moves approval process up to supervisor level.
  • Cellular Phone Usage Policy – Update and review policy.
  • Printer/USB Policy – Update and review policy.
  • Teleworker Policy – Update and review policy.

Technology Enhancements

  • Data Analytics Verification System (Fraud Prevention Automation Process)
  • Statewide Workflow Management Tool
  • Transaction Audit Trails – Ensures the sharing of system utilization or employee footprint information (currently captured by the Security Information Officer) with public assistance benefits data team.
  • System Security Technology

 Process/Procedure Improvements

  • Insert accountability metrics or oversight to ensure lead workers or management charged with case review to identify trends regarding the processing of claims.
  • Expand recordings of all client center calls
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