The Southern California High Tech Task Force Identity Theft Detail, which is led by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, recently arrested a defendant identified as Maria Christina Johnson for identify theft and fraud. An investigation into the defendant uncovered years of alleged identity theft and financial abuse.
Johnson, 43, was born in Washington. According to authorities, she has no legitimate source of income and lists her occupation as a dog trainer. She lived an affluent lifestyle, however, using stolen identities.
Johnson, who also goes by the aliases Maria Hendricks, Gia Hendricks, Maria Christina Gia and Maria Hainka, has a criminal history of felony convictions for fraud dating back to 1997, according to authorities. Johnson’s first felony convictions were in the states of Washington and Oregon, and the crimes occurred between 1997 and 2008. Her arrest record in California began in 2008.
In 2011, she was arrested in Hollywood on suspicion of forgery and burglary, according to reports. Johnson also served a prison sentence after being convicted in a case originating in Torrance that included 11 felony counts of identity theft, grand theft and credit card fraud.
The Southern California High Tech Task Force Identity Theft Detail determined Johnson met victims on dating websites and home rental websites. After she gained their trust and was allowed in their homes, she stole personal information and opened lines of credit without their permission.
According to authorities, Johnson changed victims’ mailing addresses and then assumed their identity. After she obtained the victims’ personal information, she often used it for identity theft involving their relatives and friends.
Johnson moved into luxury hotels and charged thousands of dollars in goods and services. During one hotel stay, Johnson attempted to purchase an automobile.
The investigation also determined that in one instance, she transferred a victim’s cell phone number to her own phone as part of the fraud. Johnson also made appointments with real estate brokers to view expensive homes, and once stole the identity of a real estate broker.
Johnson was arrested on April 28 at a luxury hotel in Santa Barbara. She was allegedly staying there using the name of one of her victims. Investigators later learned that during her stay at the hotel, the victim incurred losses of more than $100,000.
Investigators believe Johnson may have targeted more victims who have not yet come forward. Anyone with information, or who thinks they are a victim, is asked to call Dets. Ned Russell or Duane Decker at (818)576-8884.
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