'Attractive' Scam Artist Used Online Dating Sites To Commit Fraud, Police Say
As if you needed another reason to forego the seventh level of hell known as online dating, the shady case of scammer Maria Christina Johnson should do it for you.
According to a release from the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, the 43-year-old woman, who was arrested on April 28 by the Southern California High Tech Task Force Identity Theft Detail, used her really, really, ridiculously good looks to ensnare men on online dating sites and home rental websites as a way to steal their identities to open lines of credit, charge expensive hotel rooms, and basically live the baller lifestyle she apparently felt so entitled to.
The release from the Sheriff's Department reads like a treatment of a really good episode of Law & Order:
Once Suspect Johnson gained access to a victim’s home, she located their personal identifying information and opened lines of credit without their permission. She would change their mailing address and assume the victim’s identity. Once she gleaned information about the victim’s personal connections, she moved on to steal the identities of their relatives and friends.
After assuming an identity without permission, Suspect Johnson moved into high-end hotels and charged up thousands of dollars’ worth of goods and services. During one hotel stay, Suspect Johnson even brazenly attempted to purchase an automobile!
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. In one instance, detectives learned she transferred one victim’s cellphone number to her own phone in order to complete the takeover. Suspect Johnson also made appointments with real estate brokers to view expensive homes, possibly in attempt to locate her next victim, and on one occasion, stole the identity of the real estate broker.
The release stated that "Suspect Johnson" had spent more than $250,000 of her victims money since late March 2016.
Authorities arrested Johnson at the luxury hotel in Santa Barbara on the "1200 block of Channel Drive" where she was staying, which can be placed at the tony Four Season Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara (that's not a run-on sentence, but the actual name of the hotel).The sheriff's report claims during that stay, she racked up bills in the thousands of dollars. We would love to see an itemized bill.
As the L.A. Times notes, this isn't "Suspect Johnson"'s first time at the ol' fraud rodeo. She was arrested in 2011 for posing as an associate of NASCAR'S Hendrick Motorsports team. She also served "at least two years" in a Washington state prison on identity theft charges before coming to California in 2008. Johnson also served time for a case in Torrance that resulted in convictions on 11 counts of identity theft, grand theft and credit card fraud. Yeesh.
Over the years, Johnson has gone by monikers such as Maria Hendricks, Gia Hendricks, Maria Christina Gia, or Maria Hainka. According to KTLA, investigators said Johnson had no legitimate source of income, and listed her occupation as "dog trainer."
Those who believe they may be one of Johnson's victims, or have other information are urged to call the Southern California High Tech Task Force Identity Theft Detail Detectives Ned Russell or Duane Decker at (818) 576-8884.