SARASOTA, Fla. (FOX 13) - Detectives in Sarasota say a Florida Department of Children and Family Services employee helped steal personal information as part of a statewide identity theft ring that may have compromised the identity of more than 2,000 Florida residents.
Five people are now in jail following a two-month-long investigation involving several agencies. One of those is Bertanicy Garcia, who was employed at the time by DCF as an interviewing clerk, based out of their Miami office.
Investigators say Garcia, 48, used her DCF position access personal information of children and adults, then sent more than 500 photos with that information to another suspect, Eduardo Lamigueiro.
Dozens of images of receipts, counterfeit driver's licenses, and social security numbers were found. "These people are not amateurs at what they do," said Col. Kurt Hoffman at a news conference in Sarasota on Tuesday.
Lamigueiro, 43, and Roxana Ruiz, 39, were using those victims’ personal information to open credit card accounts to scam more than $6,000 in merchandise, detectives said.
Ultimately, investigators believe the ring was responsible for 40 fraudulent transactions throughout the state, worth an estimated $260,000.
Sarasota deputies say it was an unspecified retailer in the University Town Center area who tipped them off to the suspicious activity. After detectives connected the dots, they arrested five people, all from South Florida. Two people, including Lamigueiro, are still being sought and deputies believe they could be in the Orlando area.
Collectively, those suspects have 40 prior charges and five prior convictions
Garcia, meanwhile, has been fired from DCF. She had been with the agency since 1993.
A DCF spokesperson says the agency is working to identify all of the ID theft victims. The Sarasota County Sheriff's Office is also working to contact victims. Anyone who believes they were a victim of identity theft in this case should call the sheriff's office, deputies say.