-- A 43-year-old woman is accused of "capitalizing on her physical attraction" to meet victims through dating sites and steal their identities, Los Angeles officials said. She'd then move into high-end hotels and charge thousands of dollars' worth of goods and services, officials said.
Maria Christina Johnson is now in custody following "years of prolific identity theft and financial abuse," the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said.
Officials said her "elevated sense of entitlement compelled her to go to great lengths in aggressively assuming identities."
She once tried to buy a car after assuming someone’s identify, officials say. She also once transferred a victim's cell phone number to hers, detectives learned.
Johnson -- also known as Maria Hendricks, Gia Hendricks, Maria Christina Gia, and Maria Hainka -- would meet her victims through dating sites and home rental sites, the sheriff's office said. Then she would find personal information, open lines of credit, change the victim's mailing address and assume the victim’s identity, the sheriff's office said.
"Once she gleaned information about the victim’s personal connections, she moved on to steal the identities of their relatives and friends," the sheriff's office said.
The sheriff's office said Johnson, who was born in Washington, has no legitimate source of income and lists her occupation as a dog trainer. Johnson’s first felony convictions were in Washington and Oregon between 1997 and 2008, the sheriff's office said. She then went to California and subsequently served a prison sentence for convictions from a case in Torrance, which included 11 felony counts of identity theft, grand theft and credit card fraud, the sheriff's office said.
Johnson is now back in custody after deputies found her on April 28 at a "well-known luxury hotel in Santa Barbara County, in the name of one of her victims," the sheriff's office said. She was booked for two felony arrest warrants at the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station.
Investigators later learned "losses in that fraud case may be more than $250,000," the sheriff's office said.
The number of alleged victims is not yet known.
Johnson is being held at the Century Regional Detention Facility in Lynwood and is scheduled to appear in court Wednesday. No plea has been entered yet, a sheriff's office spokesperson said today. The sheriff's office did not know if Johnson had an attorney.
Potential victims or anyone with information about Johnson can contact Southern California High Tech Task Force Identity Theft Detail Detectives Ned Russell or Duane Decker at 818-576-8884.