A Capistrano Beach man believed to be the kingpin of a crime ring pleaded guilty Monday to stealing numerous identities to buy high-end goods he then sold on eBay and Craigslist, the Orange County District Attorney’s office reported.
Christopher John Aragon, 51, pleaded guilty 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, according to a press release from the DA’s office.
He is expected to receive 25 years in state prison when he is sentenced Sept. 28, the DA’s office said.
Between March 29, 2004, and April 15, 2007, Aragon led a crime ring that included his wife, Clara Aragon, and six co-defendants. One of them, hacker Guy Itzak Shitrit, 28, of Miami would obtain victims’ credit card numbers used to encode forged credit cards.
Christopher Aragon and his co-defendants used the credit profiles and personal identifying information of victims to make fraudulent California driver’s licenses, credit cards and gift cards, according to the DA.
The defendants encoded the magnetic strips of the credit and gift cards with stolen account information, and used the cards to purchase high-end merchandise, including designer handbags, jewelry, clothing and electronics, the DA’s press release states.
Christopher Aragon hired women to shop for him. They traveled throughout California and to Las Vegas to purchase the goods, the DA reported.
Christopher Aragon and his co-defendants then resold the merchandise on eBay and Craigslist. Clara Aragon hired an employee solely to sell stolen goods on eBay.
Law enforcement officials caught up to Aragon and his crew in Newport Beach on May 12, 2007, after a scanned credit card’s magnetic encoding did not match the imprint on the card, the DA’s office said.
Newport Beach police officers made the arrest in the parking lot at after Aragon and Shitrit had purchased $13,000 worth of men’s and women’s clothing and watches using fraudulent American Express and Visa cards, the DA’s press release states.
Inside Aragon’s vehicle police also found 20 ecstasy pills and prescription Xanax, according to the DA.
A large group of co-defendants have already pleaded guilty in related cases. They include:
- Clara Aragon, 39, Capistrano Beach
- Sarah Jean Gunderson, 29, Tustin,
- Elizabeth Ann Esquer, 34, Irvine
- Nancy Diaz Silva, 29, San Juan Capistrano
- Guy Itzak Shitrit, 28, Miami
- Federico Vigo, 52, Northridge.
They all pleaded guilty to more than 80 felony counts each, including conspiracy to commit identity theft, identity theft, burglary and possession of stolen property.
In addition, Marcus Phillipe Rojas, 37, of Mission Viejo pleaded guilty in 2007 to 17 felony counts including identity theft, grand theft, burglary, possession of stolen property, possession of drugs for sale and possession of counterfeiting equipment.
Their sentences ranged from one year in Orange County Jail with three years of formal probation up to seven years in state prison, the DA reported.