Video Catches Plastic Surgery Fraudster
CORAL GABLES (CBS4) – It’s a stunning development in a story we told you about first on November 5th on CBS4 News.
We’re now hearing exclusively from the victim in that case and seeing new surveillance tape from a bank in which the defendant is reportedly seen committing another crime.
Police say a Miami woman who they initially arrested for stealing a man’s identity to finance $8,000 in plastic surgery has been taken into custody again.This time, Detective Carlos Baixauli told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench that 22-year-old Maria Pereira is charged with third degree grand theft for “uttering a worthless check with intent to defraud.”
“She passed the $1573 worthless check at a Citibank branch at 396 Alhambra Circle on November 8th,” said Baixauli. “And that was just after she bonded out of jail on the previous charge, since she was arrested for that on November 5th. She apparently didn’t wait too long.”
New surveillance tape obtained by CBS4 news shows Pereira and her 24-year-old husband, Jorge Alejandro Falla, entering the bank and depositing a check that Police is from a closed account at another bank. Within minutes, police say the tape shows them leaving the bank after withdrawing more than $1500 against the check that was deposited.
“She is doing what’s called check kiting from a close account and making a deposit into another account at that bank to get the money,” said Baixauli. “I was very surprised by this case. She was distraught the first time. She was remorseful, it seemed and when I get wind of her doing this crime, it is shocking.”
“In this case the husband’s involvement was that he accompanied her to the bank,” said Baixauli. “Did he know about the alleged scheme? We do not have a way of proving that.”
Pereira is now in even more trouble because she was held without bond after a court appearance on Friday, pending a check of her immigration status and whether she is in this country legally. She is married but sources say she and her husband lives in a separate residence. CBS4 was not able to locate Jorge Alejandro Falla for comment.
But CBS4’s D’Oench did catch up with the original victim of identity theft, realtor Pierre Deagostini of Palm Island. He told D’Oench about the identity theft: “It’s a terrible blow. It’s terrible in terms of your credit, your financing and the fact that you have to prove who you are. It’s really really a burden that you carry with you not only when it happens but one you carry with you the rest of your life.”
“It’s being victimized and violated,” Deagostini said. “It’s people who know where you live, what your name is, what your social security number is.”
He was advised not to talk about Pereira or the charges against her. But he did say, “I have to tell you that I am extremely impressed by the work of Coral Gables Police and Detective Baixauli. They did a great job.”
D’Oench also caught up with Pereira’s attorney, Bo Porta of Miami. He said, “My client is extremely remorseful about the situation. The family is now behind her. We’re trying to make the victims whole as quickly as possible. We are working with the State Attorney’s office. It is an extremely remorseful situation for my client. She is a young person. This is a very difficult time.”
When Pereira was first arrested on November 5th, she was emotional but stayed silent as she was walked out of the Coral Gables Police Department and taken to the Miami-Dade jail.
Police say she confessed to stealing a man’s identity seven months ago to pay for her own elective surgery.
Detective Baixauli said Pereira went online and applied for financing using the victim’s information. Once she got the approval, she allegedly sent it to two separate doctor’s offices. She is accused of paying for $8,000 worth of surgery with the stolen identity.
Police say she and Deagostini do not know each other.
Police say the two doctors who performed the surgeries will lose the money they were paid. Detectives don’t know if those doctors will ever get that money back. One office where she received cosmetic surgery was RDY Laser Cosmetics on Ponce de Leon Boulevard, police say. No one there wanted to comment about Pereira’s latest arrest.
Pereira faces a sentence for that crime of up to five years behind bars and/or a fine of up to $5,000 if she is convicted.
“Now we’re seeing identity theft where before it was used to purchase high-end luxury vehicles or maybe even to commit mortgage fraud, now we’re seeing that some of these subjects are trying to finance their own vanity,” Baixauli said on November 5th.
Baixauli added, “In other types of crimes, when you commit a crime like identity theft to steal a car or purchase a property, once you’re caught, those items can be returned. These surgical procedures cannot be reversed.”