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LASD - Los Angeles County Sheriffs Dept Information Bureau (SIB)
Thursday May 5th, 2016 :: 12:48 p.m. PDT


#LASD Prolific ID Theft Susp Arrested After Years of Fraud, Living Lux Life, Fraud & Cyber Crimes Hi-Tech Task Force

Southern California High Tech Task Force Identity Theft Detail Ends Years of Financial Havoc Wreaked by High-Dollar Fraud Thief

The days of Suspect Maria Christina Johnson living a jet set lifestyle at the expense of others came to an end last week when the Southern California High Tech Task Force Identity Theft Detail arrested her for fraudulent activity.  The investigation into a case of years of prolific identity theft and financial abuse culminated Thursday, April 28, 2016 when detectives took her into custody.

The task force is led by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department with member agents and officers from the Los Angeles Police Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.  The investigation, which derived from within the policing jurisdiction of the Los Angeles Police Department, was brought to the attention of the Southern California High Tech Task Force Identity Theft Detail by a partner officer.

Maria Christina Johnson, 43, was born in Washington.   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.  Suspect Johnson, also known as Maria Hendricks, Gia Hendricks, Maria Christina Gia, or Maria Hainka, has a past littered with felony convictions for fraud dating back to 1997. 

Suspect Johnson’s first felony convictions came in the states of Washington and Oregon, and date between 1997 and 2008.  She drifted southward and, in 2008, commenced an arrest record in California.  Suspect Johnson served a prison sentence for convictions from a case out of the city of Torrance, which included 11 felony counts of identity theft, grand theft and credit card fraud.

During the Southern California High Tech Task Force Identity Theft Detail’s investigation, it was determined 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.   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. 

Since late March, 2016, task force investigators have looked deeply into the circumstances surrounding years of prolific and apathetic fraud and financial abuse committed by Suspect Johnson upon yet-unknown numbers of victims.  On Thursday, April 28, 2016, her schemes came to an end when task force members learned Suspect Johnson was staying at a well-known luxury hotel in Santa Barbara County, in the name of one of her victims.  Investigators would later learn during initial investigation into Suspect Johnson’s stay there, losses she incurred were over $100,000, and total losses in that fraud case may be more than $250,000.

Task force detectives contacted the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department and informed them of the circumstances surrounding the investigation.  Santa Barbara County deputy personnel responded to the hotel located in the 1200 block of Channel Drive, Santa Barbara, and detained the suspect. 

Southern California High Tech Task Force Identity Theft Detail investigators transported Suspect Johnson to Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station, where she was booked for two felony arrest warrants out of Los Angeles County.  She is being held in lieu of $2,000,000.

If you have information about Suspect Johnson or believe you may be one of her victims, please call the Southern California High Tech Task Force Identity Theft Detail Detectives Ned Russell or Duane Decker at (818) 576-8884. 

If you wish to remain anonymous, call “LA Crime Stoppers” at 800-222-TIPS (8477), text the letters TIPLA plus your tip to CRIMES (274637), or use the website


Written by:

Sergeant Kevin Duncan

Fraud & Cyber Crimes Bureau

Identity Theft Task Force


Deputy Lillian Peck

Sheriff's Information Bureau

211 West Temple Street,

Los Angeles, CA  90012




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