‘Prolific’ ID Theft Suspect Who Lived ‘Jet Set Lifestyle’ Met Her Victims Through Online Dating Sites: LASD
A 43-year-old convicted of identity thief was recently arrested again after she allegedly assumed the identities of people she met online to live a “jet set lifestyle,” the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department announced this week.
Maria Christina Johnson was taken into custody on April 28 after authorities investigated a yearslong case of “prolific identity theft and financial abuse,” a sheriff’s news release from Thursday stated. She was arrested on suspicion of fraudulent activity.
Johnson “capitalized on her physical attraction” in order to meet victims through well-known dating websites and home rental sites, according to the Sheriff’s Department. Once gaining access to their home, she found their personal identifying information and allegedly used that to open lines of credit without their permission.
“She would change their mailing address and assume the victim’s identity,” the release stated.
Johnson then allegedly obtained information about the victim’s personal connections, including relatives and friends, and stole their identities as well, according to the department.
After assuming a false ID, the suspect allegedly moved into high-end hotels, where she spent thousands of dollars on goods and services. At one point, she “brazenly” tried to buy a new car, the release stated.
“Investigation revealed Suspect Johnson’s elevated sense of entitlement compelled her to go to great lengths in aggressively assuming identities; no one was immune from being exploited,” officials said in the release. She lived a “jet set lifestyle at the expense of others,” they added.
Johnson was taken into custody after authorities learned she was staying at a luxury hotel in Santa Barbara County. During that stay, she spent more than $100,000, with total losses in that particular case possibly exceeding $250,000, according to the Sheriff’s Department.
She was taken to the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station where she was booked for two felony arrest warrants in the county. Her bail was set at $2 million
Johnson — who also goes by the aliases Maria Hendricks, Gia Hendricks, Maria Christina Gia, or Maria Hainka — has a long criminal past, with felony convictions for fraud dating back to 1997, according to the department. She has served prison time for a case in Torrance that included convictions on 11 felony counts of identity theft, grand theft and credit card fraud.
The suspect, who lists her occupation as a dog trainer, apparently had no legitimate source of income, investigators said. She was able to “live the high-dollar lifestyle of the cafe society entirely off stolen identities,” the release said.
A total number of victims was not provided.
Anyone with information about the case, or believes they were victimized by Johnson, is asked to call the Southern California High Tech Task Force Identity Theft Detail detectives Ned Russell or Duane Decker at 818-576-8884.
Anyone wishing to remain anonymous can call LA Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.