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Crime Ring Leader Gets 25 Years for ID Theft

Christopher John Aragon, 52, Capistrano Beach, pleaded guilty Friday to 50 felony counts including 33 counts of unauthorized use of personal identifying information, says district attorney. The heist came to an end at Bloomingdale's in Fashion Isla

A 52-year-old Capistrano Beach man who led an identity theft and counterfeit credit card crime ring was sentenced Friday to 25 years in prison, the Orange County district attorney's office reported.

Christopher John Aragon led a criminal enterprise between March 29, 2004, and April 15, 2007, that included his wife, Clara, and six co-defendants, all of whom pleaded guilty in 2007 after police caught up with them at a high-end store in Newport Beach, prosecutors said.

Aragon and the others would obtain credit card numbers to make counterfeit cards and stole identifying information to make phony state driver's licenses, credit cards and gift cards. The thieves would use the bogus cards to buy expensive items such as designer handbags, jewelry, clothes and electronics and then resold the goods online.

They were caught in May 2007 while trying to purchase Coach handbags, men's and women's clothing and watches exceeding $13,000 at Bloomingdale's in Fashion Island in Newport Beach with a bogus credit card. Police were alerted when the scan of the magnetic encoding on the back of a credit card did not match the imprint of the card. Aragon and another defendant were arrested in the parking lot and a search of Aragon's vehicle led to over 50 forged credit and gift cards, and fraudulent California driver's licenses bearing various names with Christopher Aragon's photo. Police also found 20 ecstasy pills and prescription Xanax.

Aragon pleaded guilty on March 26 to 50 felony charges, including 33 of unauthorized use of personal identifying information, 13 counts of grand theft, two counts of counterfeiting credit cards and one count each of conspiracy and the sale or transport of drugs, according to the D.A's office.

Aragon also admitted sentencing enhancements for property damage exceeding $1 million and aggravated white collar crime more than $500,000.

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