Christopher John Aragon, who pleaded guilty in March to leading a crime ring that stole thousands of personal identities for counterfeit credit cards used to buy high-end goods that were re-sold online, has been sentenced to 25 years in state prison. The Capistrano Beach 52-year-old is the final of eight defendants, including Aragon's wife, to be tried in the case, which put the others behind bars for terms ranging from one to seven years.
Christopher John Aragon Guilty of Leading Crime Ring That Stole I.D.'s, Made Fake Credit Cards and Bought Goods Resold on Web
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Between March 29, 2004, and April 15, 2007, hacker Guy Itzak Shitrit, 28, of Miami, Florida, obtained credit card
numbers used to encode forged credit cards. Chris Aragon, his wife Clara Aragon, 40, also of Capistrano Beach, and five others made fraudulent California driver's licenses, credit
cards and gift cards. (The others are: Sarah Jean Gunderson,
30, Tustin; Elizabeth Ann Esquer, 35, Irvine; Nancy Diaz Silva, 30, San
Juan Capistrano; Federico Vigo,
53, Northridge; and Marcus Phillipe Rojas, 37, Mission Viejo.)
With the phony cards they bought designer handbags,
jewelry, clothing and electronics at stores throughout California and Las
Vegas, then resold the stuff on eBay
and Craigslist. The scam unraveled on May 12, 2007, when Aragon and Shitrit used fake
Visa and American Express cards to buy $13,000 worth of watches, Coach
handbags and men's and women's clothing at the Fashion Island
Bloomingdale's. When the scan of the magnetic
encoding on the back of a credit card did not match the imprint of the
card, Newport Beach Police were alerted, and Aragon and Shitrit were
arrested in the parking lot.
A search of Aragon's vehicle
produced more than 50 forged
credit and gift cards, as well as phony California driver licenses
bearing various names with Aragon's photo. Also inside the
vehicle were 20 ecstasy pills and prescription Xanax, and a search of Aragon's home produced even more phony-baloney credit
cards and driver licenses, as well as high-end goods purchased with
Searches of the residences of other crime ring members produced
similar finds, but inside
Shirit's Aliso Viejo apartment investigators found a $10,000 machine used to make credit cards,
a halogram presser, a backlight printer, credit card writers, fake
drivers licenses and thumb drives with thousands of hacked
and stolen credit card numbers.
Chris Aragon pleaded guilty March 26 to 50 felony counts including 33 counts of unauthorized use of
personal identifying information, 13 counts of grand theft, two counts
of counterfeiting access cards, and one count each of conspiracy to
commit a crime and the sale or transport of a controlled substance. He
also admitted to two sentencing enhancements for property damage over $1
million and aggravated white collar crime over $500,000.
Clara Aragon, Gunderson,
Esquer, Silva, Shitrit and Vigo pleaded guilty at various times in 2007 to more than 80 felony counts each, including conspiracy to commit identity
theft, identity theft, burglary, and possession of stolen property. Rojas pleaded guilty that year to 17
felony counts including identity theft, grand theft, burglary,
possession of stolen property, possession of drugs for sale, possession
of counterfeiting equipment.
OC Weekly Editor-in-Chief Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the alternative newsweekly’s first calendar editor.