She Used Dating Sites for ID Theft That Fueled a "Jet-Set Lifestyle," Cops Say
Maria Christina Johnson
Watch out boy, she'll chew you up. Allegedly.
The Los Angeles Sheriff's Department this week said in a statement that it has collared a prolific identity thief who used dating websites to find victims who helped her live "a jet-set lifestyle."
Maria Christina Johnson, 43, was arrested last week in connection with a string of ID thefts that constituted "prolific identity theft and financial abuse," Sheriff's officials alleged.
Her alleged crimes could be worth a quarter million dollars or more, they said.
"Suspect Johnson’s mode of operation was to capitalize on her physical attraction and meet victims through well-known dating websites and home rental websites," the Sheriff's Department stated. "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."
On April 28, Johnson was tracked down to a "well-known luxury hotel" in the 1200 block of Channel Drive in Santa Barbara, where she was cuffed, the Sheriff's Department said. Deputies allege that she incurred $100,000 worth of charges there.
(A Four Seasons resort happens to exist in that block.)
Southern California High-Tech Task Force Identity Theft Detail members took Johnson to the Lost Hills Sheriff's Station, where she was booked based on two felony warrants, authorities said. Her bail was initially set at $2 million.
Investigators say she has felony convictions in her native Washington state and in neighboring Oregon dating back to 1997.
"She has no legitimate source of income and lists her occupation as a dog trainer, yet appeared to live the high-dollar lifestyle of the café society entirely off stolen identities," the Sheriff's Department stated. "Suspect Johnson, also known as Maria Hendricks, Gia Hendricks, Maria Christina Gia or Maria Hainka, has a past littered with felony convictions ... "
Deputies said her "record" in California started in 2008. She "aggressively" assumed others' identities to fund stays at luxury hotels, purchase goods and even peruse real estate, investigators alleged.
"After assuming an identity without permission, Suspect Johnson moved into high-end hotels and charged up thousands of dollars’ worth of goods and services," the department stated. "During one hotel stay, Suspect Johnson even brazenly attempted to purchase an automobile."
The Sheriff's Department, along with the Los Angeles Police Department, the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, started looking into Johnson's alleged scams in March, authorities said.
Hell hath no fury like some guy scorned, apparently.
Anyone with information on the suspect was asked to call ID theft investigators at 818-576-8884.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss LA Weekly's biggest stories.