Archive for March, 2012

Identity Theft Suspect Arrested

Friday, March 30th, 2012

A 31-year-old Oakland resident was arrested for allegedly stealing an identity, then charging up more than $3,000 at several Stoneridge Mall stores.

When Pleasanton police arrested Porsche Holloway on March 22, they found a credit card embossing machine, several laptops, blank credit cards, other victims’ personal information, and things bought through unlawful means. They also found a loaded hangun, stolen out of Oregon, according to a statement sent out by Sgt. Kurt Schlehuber.

In mid-March, Vacaville residents called the police department in that city to report $3,500 in fraudulent charges on a credit card — all at Stoneridge on March 3.

Pleasanton police talked with store employees and watched surveillance footage, and were able to identify the suspect.
 
Holloway was booked at Santa Rita Jail on four felony counts; burglary, grand theft, unlawful use of an access card and identity theft. 

Pleasanton detectives are following up with the additional victims in this case for possible additional charges.

Article source: http://pleasanton.patch.com/articles/identity-theft-suspect-arrested

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ID theft dangers

Friday, March 30th, 2012

Even Greenwich’s number one cop isn’t immune to credit card fraud.

During a program at Greenwich Police Headquarters entitled “Protecting Against Identity Theft,” presented by the League of Women Voters of Greenwich Wednesday evening, Police Chief James Heavey told a few dozen attendees how, about a year ago, someone obtained his card’s information from a Greenwich restaurant.

A week later, Heavey’s bank called him to report some suspicious activity on the account.

“They ask me, `Are you trying to purchase a large screen TV in the Paramus, N.J., mall, near where you bought $500 in power tools?” Heavey said.

Heavey, of course, had made no such purchases. As it turns out, thieves had employed a popular scheme among financial criminals where an electronic device is used to skim credit card information, Heavey said.

The case was eventually resolved, with no lasting damage to Heavey’s finances, and the incident is one from which all citizens can learn an important lesson, Heavey said.

“It’s a huge thing to keep an eye on your card,” he said.

The featured speaker at Wednesday’s program was Detective Mark Solomon, an 18-year veteran of the Greenwich Police Department, president of the Connecticut chapter of the International Association of Financial Crimes Investigators, and a member of the Connecticut Financial Crimes Task Force.

The goal of the task force is to take down illegal organizations that commit various forms of fraud and identity theft, Solomon said.

Identity theft “is one of the fastest growing crimes in America, and it has a devastating effect,” Solomon said.

Despite some of the frightening statistics concerning these schemes — 71 percent of the crimes happen within a week of the victim’s personal data being stolen, and the average arrest rate is below five percent of all reported cases — Solomon explained to attendees how they can protect themselves against having their identities and financial information taken.

Solomon recommended shredding all financial documents before discarding them, not giving out personal information unless you are certain you know who you are dealing with, and keeping private information in a secure location.

Though there is no foolproof means to completely prevent identity theft, Solomon added that individuals should be aware of schemes that seem too good to be true, such as phone calls promising huge monetary winnings.

“Rule number one: If you didn’t buy a ticket, you didn’t win the lottery,” he said.

Solomon also warned program attendees about online phishing schemes and ATM skimming operations, in which thieves install devices, including miniature cameras, at ATMs that can capture personal information from bank customers.

“Cover your hand as you enter you pin,” he said.

All computer passwords should be changed frequently and should not be obvious, Solomon added.

If you believe some of your personal information has been compromised, close out the account and contact police, the credit card company and one of the major credit bureaus, Solomon said.

A Cos Cob couple, who wished to remain anonymous, said they had their credit card information stolen two separate times in the past three years.

In one instance, thieves bought gas in Ft. Myers, Fla., using their account, and on the second occasion, charges stemming from California appeared on the couple’s account when they hadn’t been to California.

Since that time, they have scrutinized their credit card bill when it arrives, and they don’t let their credit cards out of their sight.

The couple said they were fortunate their card company was looking out for their best interests.

“The important thing there is the credit card company picks it up,” the woman said. “The biggest thing about fraud is the feeling you’ve been violated.”

david.hennessey@scni.com; 203-625-4428

Article source: http://www.greenwichtime.com/policereports/article/Detective-warns-of-ID-theft-dangers-3442700.php

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Identity theft plagues Southern Arizona residents

Thursday, March 29th, 2012



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It is a reminder to keep a tight grip on your personal information. A recent report from the Federal Trade Commission shows Arizona has the fourth highest rate of identity theft per capita in the nation. The Pima County Sheriff’s Department deals with it daily. Just three months into the year and there have already been about 30 reported cases of identity theft in Pima County. The victims range in age from 21-81.

Karen Ross-Glaser is still trying to recover from having her identity stolen four year ago. She says it destroyed her credit, her reputation and her life.

“We’ve gone through hell, literally, I don’t know how else to describe it,” said Ross-Glaser.

She says her half sister, Desiree Ross, stole her identity.

“DMV told me they would not give me a license, couldn’t figure out why, they told me I already had one on file,” she said.

Turns out Ross got a driver’s license in Karen’s name. It was suspended after Ross accrued several traffic citations all across the state and the damage did not stop there.

“My file shows that I do methamphetamine because of her,” Ross-Glaser said.

Ross was booked into the Pinal County Jail in Karen’s name too, charged with forgery, drug possession and child abuse. She also wrote more than two dozen fake checks across the country.

“I can’t even begin to describe what it’s done to our family, I really can’t,” said Ross-Glaser.

Karen’s case is extreme but Dawn Barkman of the Pima County Sheriff’s Department says it is not unheard of.

“Southern Arizona is one of the largest identity theft areas around, we see it a lot,” Barkman said. “It’s a very difficult crime to actually prosecute.”

That is why deputies promote prevention and education, urging residents to withhold their private information from just about everyone. Strangers, friends, even some family members. They also recommend using a cross shredder to destroy personal documents but sometimes not even that is enough.

“These criminals will go back into the garbage and they’ll actually tape the stuff back together, glue it back together, and still find your identity,” Barkman said.

It is also a good idea to check your credit report to try and catch any abnormal activity early on. As for Karen she is still trying to clear her name with various law enforcement agencies on the local and federal levels, but it has been a very slow process.

Article source: http://www.kvoa.com/news/identity-theft-plagues-southern-arizona-residents/

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Man sentenced in ATM identity theft scam

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

The California attorney general’s office says a man has been sentenced to more than three years in prison for an ATM identity theft scam that spanned seven counties.

Attorney General Kamala Harris says Gervork Aroutiounyan also was ordered to pay more than $320,000 in restitution to Chase Bank at his sentencing Wednesday in San Luis Obispo County Superior Court.

Harris says Aroutiounyan and Gnel Snapyan were each charged with 28 counts of felony fraud.

Prosecutors say the pair skimmed debit card information of Chase Bank customers in Santa Clara, Marin, Fresno, San Bernardino, San Diego and Los Angeles counties. They then created bogus ATM access cards that were used to withdraw more than $320,000.

Chase Bank has reimbursed customers for the losses.

Snapyan is scheduled to be sentenced on June 15.

Article source: http://www.sacbee.com/2012/03/28/4374881/man-sentenced-in-atm-identity.html

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Action Line: Report tax identity theft, stolen refunds to IRS

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

Dear Action Line: Please advise what is being done to stop identity theft of income tax refunds. My husband was targeted in 2010 – our e-filing was rejected by IRS – and after months of checking where the fraud was, he was informed there was no fraud (we proved otherwise with credit reports).

There was no more action needed by us. We tried again to e-file jointly in 2011 and it was rejected for the same reason: his Social Security number had already been used to file a tax return. We filed our taxes Feb. 1 thinking there would be no way all the tax forms would enable anyone to file before that day.

WRONG. We called the appropriate agencies and were told a paper return would need to be filed and we complied. However, they advised they did see where his SSN had been used but would not give any other information such as where the check went but asked all our information to verify he was who he said he was.

We have never received our refund from IRS. We religiously file tax returns but there seems to be little being done. People are losing money to tax ID fraud and no one is trying to stop this. – J.M.T., Skiatook.

The Internal Revenue Service responds to “income tax ID theft” complaints by sending a document titled, “Indications your identity may have been stolen and how to report it to us,” accessible at tulsaworld.com/IRSIDtheftreported

It states, “Your identity may have been stolen if you receive a letter from the IRS stating, or learn from a tax professional, that you filed more than one tax return or someone has already filed using your information; you have a balance due, refund offset or have had collection actions taken against you for a year you did not file; or you received wages from an employer you have not worked for.”

The typical “tax ID theft” occurs when someone gets a job, uses your SSN on a “W-4, Employees withholding allowance certificate” … claiming exemption from withholding, certifying that last year he “had the right to a refund of all federal income tax withheld because he had no tax liability,” etc. This leaves you holding the bag for what he should have withheld, had he been working under his own SSN.

The document continues, “If you receive such a letter from the IRS and you suspect your identity has been stolen, respond immediately to the name, address, phone number or fax listed on the IRS letter or contact the IRS tulsaworld.com/IRScontacting to determine if the letter is a legitimate IRS letter.

“If you become the victim of identity theft outside of the tax system or believe you may be at risk due to a lost or stolen purse or wallet, questionable credit card activity or credit report, etc., you are encouraged to contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit 1-800-908-4490 so further steps can be taken to secure your account.”

IPSU hours of operation are Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. You must fill out IRS “Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit” at tulsaworld.com/IRSForm14039

Also see tulsaworld.com/IRSIDtheft for IRS document “The IRS is committed to working with taxpayers who are the victims of identity theft.” It covers “when ID theft has affected your tax account, lost or stolen wallet, protecting yourself from ID theft, the steps IRS is taking to stop ID theft and IRS news and outreach” on this topic.

Original Print Headline: Report tax identity theft promptly to IRS


Submit Action Line questions by calling 918-699-8888, emailing phil.mulkins@TulsaWorld.com or by mailing them to Tulsa World Action Line, PO Box 1770, Tulsa OK 74102-1770.

Article source: http://www.tulsaworld.com/site/articlepath.aspx?articleid=20120329_15_E3_bDearA92759

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Identity Theft Suspect Rips Off Officer, Faces $2.8 Million Bail

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

Livermore resident Joshua Wayne Miller picked the wrong mark to target in his alleged identity theft spree.

Miller, 32, was arrested in Livermore last week on multiple fraud and theft charges and is in custody at Santa Rita Jail with a hefty bail of $2.8 million, according to county records. 

Among his lengthy list of alleged charges are: vehicle theft; burglary; identity theft; access-card fraud; forgery; making fake checks; and possession of stolen property, according to the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office data.

Miller was apprehended by Union City officers March 20 at 3 p.m. on the 900 block of North Canyon Drive in Livermore, records state. He had a stolen vehicle from Union City in his possession at the time of the arrest, Union City police said.

According to Cmdr. Ben Horner of the Union City Police Department, Miller was on a crime spree throughout Alameda County and ran a sophisticated fraud operation that involved stealing mail out of mailboxes to create identity theft opportunities.

Among his victims was a Union City police officer who resides in Livermore, which is how the case came to the local police agency’s attention, Horner said.

“Often these types of criminals move to different jurisdictions to try and stay ahead of law enforcement,” Horner said.

Miller allegedly made multiple fraudulent credit card purchases throughout the region with the officer’s identity, including a Walmart in Union City.

Horner said Miller’s high bail may be due to the seriousness and increasing prevalence of identity theft crimes.

“I think everyone’s fed up with this type of behavior,” Horner said. “We’re taking it very serious because of the damage it can do to victims’ lives.”

“Sometimes you can never repair the damage,” he added.

The investigation is still ongoing.

Miller is scheduled to appear at the Fremont Hall of Justice Thursday at 9 a.m. for arraignment and plea entry.

Livermore Patch’s Susan Schena contributed to this report.

Article source: http://livermore.patch.com/articles/identity-theft-suspect-rips-off-officer-faces-28-million-bail

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Identity theft tax fraud on the rise – WBIR

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

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By Melanie Payne, The (Fort Myers, Fla.) News-Press

FORT MYERS, Fla. — More than 460,000 taxpayers since 2008 have been victims of wage and/or identity tax fraud, according to the IRS.

The number of cases almost tripled between 2009 and 2011, data show. As law enforcement and the IRS attempt to address the problem, it continues to grow as criminals find new ways to thwart a system designed to quickly process and refund money to taxpayers.

Most of those nearly half-million taxpayers found out they were victims when they tried to file their taxes and couldn’t do it electronically; or when weeks passed and they didn’t get their income tax refund; or when, in the summer, a letter came from the IRS telling them they had income they didn’t report on their tax return.

This fraud is costing the American taxpayers billions in stolen U.S. Treasury funds and government resources.

Rocky Festa, a task force officer with the North Miami Police Department, works with the Secret Service and the IRS to investigate and nab criminals in what he describes as an explosion of tax refund identity theft.

“We weren’t seeing drugs coming across (Alligator) Alley anymore,” Festa said, referring to Interstate 75 between the east and west coasts of Florida. “We were seeing Walmart MoneyCards. That was the new crack cocaine. (Criminals) don’t have to sling drugs on the corner, dodging bullets, to make $1,000 when (they can) do one tax return and get $9,000.”

The trade in names and Social Security numbers is so lucrative, Festa said, that the front-line thieves can earn up to $200 to $300 for each identity pilfered.

Once the criminals file the tax returns electronically, Festa said, it takes only eight days to get a refund. Using the direct deposit option, the criminal can have the money deposited on a prepaid money card.

“The IRS is making it appear that they’re right on top of this,” said author Robert Mazur, a former IRS special agent who has also worked in the U.S Customs Service and the Drug Enforcement Administration and now runs an investigations firm in Tampa, Fla.

“The bottom line is the system is broken. There is a huge vulnerability no matter how the IRS wants to spin it.”

The IRS has stepped up efforts to combat identity theft, which topped its 2012 list of the annual “Dirty Dozen Tax Scams.”

In January, a nationwide crackdown on identity theft fraud by the IRS along with the Justice Department’s Tax Division and U.S. Attorney’s offices led to 69 indictments, 58 arrests and 939 criminal charges filed.

At the time of the action, IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman said in a press release: “This unprecedented effort against identity theft sends a strong, unmistakable message to anyone considering participating in a refund fraud scheme this tax season. We are aggressively pursuing cases across the nation with the Justice Department, and people will be going to jail.”

The IRS intercepted 260,000 fraudulent returns in 2011, saving $1.4 billion in fraudulent refunds from being paid out. But an agency spokesman could not provide information on the number of taxpayers who had filed the Form 14039, used for victims of identity theft tax fraud, or how many taxpayers had received refunds after a refund had been previously paid on a fraudulent return.

“When we identify a fraudulent refund, we act to stop the issuance of that refund. The data that we are able to provide reflect the refunds we have stopped,” IRS spokesman Michael Dobzinski wrote in an email.

Mazur credits the rise in this type of tax fraud to the IRS’ offer of a “ludicrous turnaround of 48 hours to get a refund now replaced by the equally ludicrous seven to 10 days.”

That’s not enough time to properly vet a tax return and, moreover, the short time allows “the crook to beat the legitimate taxpayer to the punch,” Mazur said.

Crooks even use Social Security numbers from people who have been dead for years and those who are in prison, knowing the IRS won’t cross-check the Social Security numbers on the returns before issuing refunds, Mazur said.

Beefing up efforts

The lack of information for victims is frustrating.

“I’d like a copy of the return to see what other information they have. Were there brokerage statements?” asked tax fraud victim Ed Wagoner, who has been waiting for a refund for almost a year after discovering someone had already filed taxes using his Social Security number.

When Wagoner requested information on the fraudulent return, “(the IRS) said, it’s a privacy issue, we can’t give you this. Privacy? It’s ostensibly my information. What’s private about it?”

The IRS is prohibited by statute to share information on tax returns, something that has even hindered law enforcement actions,  said U.S. Rep. Richard Nugent, R-Fla.

Nugent, a former sheriff of Hernando County, Fla., spoke in November as part of a House oversight committee about the need for the IRS to improve its systems to thwart the growing problem of identity theft and the payment of criminals with U.S. Treasury funds.

“We understand this is an incredibly frustrating process for victims,” IRS spokesman Dobzinski wrote in an email. “Once we have been alerted to the possibility of identity theft we must fully examine the account.”

Steven Miller, deputy commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, in remarks to the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Growth, outlined a number of steps the IRS is taking to address identity theft tax fraud. Miller added it is a priority for 2012.

An enhanced return processing program was begun in 2011, Miller said, which added new screening filters  “to spot false returns before they are processed and before a refund is issued.” As of March 9,  Miller said, 215,000 questionable returns with $1.15 billion in claimed refunds were caught by the filters.

A mystery

The IRS stresses protecting one’s identity as a way to avoid this type of fraud. But most victims don’t have any idea how or when their identities were stolen. Or, there was nothing they could have done to prevent it, as is the case with Galen Ballard of Cape Coral, Fla.

Ballard and his wife were patients at the Spartanburg, S.C., Regional Hospital shortly before a former employee’s laptop computer was stolen from his unlocked car. According to the letter the hospital sent to patients, “the computer contained a password-protected file with Social Security numbers as well as names, addresses, dates of birth and medical billing codes.” The very next sentence reads: “We have no reason to believe that any information has been misused.”

The computer was stolen in March 2011; the Ballards filed their return in early April. By July, when the couple had still not received the approximately $2,500 refund, they became concerned.

“I called the IRS, which then — and only then — informed me that an earlier joint return had been filed in (our) names and the IRS had routinely and unquestioningly paid it,” Ballard said.
After filing a theft affidavit, Ballard said he called the IRS regularly.

In January, the IRS sent a letter to Ballard stating his case was being investigated.

“They’re victimizing me twice,” Ballard said. “Once by the crook who stole my ID, and then by the IRS.”

On March 16, almost a year after filing his return, Ballard received his refund from the IRS.

Tips for victims of identity tax fraud

Identity theft, especially as it relates to government benefits and taxes, was the No. 1 consumer complaint in the U.S. in 2011, according to the Federal Trade Commission. This type of crime has nearly tripled since 2008. So what should you do if you have been a victim of identity theft or you are a potential victim because you have lost your wallet, purse or have been notified that a security breach has occurred at your work or medical care provider?:

  • File a Form 14039 with the IRS
  • Report the identity theft to the police and get a copy of your report.
  • Close all accounts that may have been affected by the theft of your identity including accounts that may have been fraudulently opened.
  • File an Identity Theft Complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.
  • Consider signing up with an identity theft protection service and hiring an accountant or enrolled agent to deal with the IRS identity theft issue on your behalf.

Whom to contact

Get in touch with one of the three credit reporting agencies and report you are victim of identity theft (it is only necessary to contact one; they are obligated to report it to the other two) and have a fraud alert placed on your account. The three reporting agencies are:

  • TransUnion: 800-680-7289; transunion.com; Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834-6790
  • Equifax: 800-525-6285; equifax.com; P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
  • Experian: 888-EXPERIAN (397-3742); experian.com; P.O. Box 9554, Allen, TX 75013

More resources

  • Online: ftccomplaintassistant.gov
  • By phone: 877-ID-THEFT (438-4338); TTY: 866-653-4261;
  • By mail: Identity Theft Clearinghouse, Federal Trade Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20580.

Article source: http://www.wbir.com/news/article/213363/16/Identity-theft-tax-fraud-on-the-rise

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If Microsoft co-founder’s ID isn’t safe, is yours?

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

Even the billionaire co-founder of Microsoft isn’t immune to identity theft, it seems.

A simple scheme to defraud Paul Allen, one of the richest men in the world, has landed an AWOL soldier in federal custody, authorities said this week. The case raises basic questions about how safe anyone’s information can really be.

Federal investigators allege in a complaint unsealed Monday that Brandon Lee Price, 28, changed the address on a bank account held by Allen, then had a debit card sent to his Pittsburgh home to use for payments on a delinquent Armed Forces Bank account and personal expenses.

“Clearly, it’s a reminder that anyone can be a victim of this,” said David Postman, a spokesman for Allen. “It certainly is a surprise and reason for everyone to make sure that all that stuff is properly cared for and monitored.”

So, how would someone go about stealing the identity of the man who helped start a company that itself was a pioneer in digital security?

Price called Citibank in January pretending to be Allen and changed the address on one of Allen’s accounts from Seattle to Pittsburgh, then called back three days later to say he had lost his debit card and asked for a new one to be sent to him, an FBI investigator wrote in a criminal complaint filed in February.

The card sent to Allen’s address was used to attempt a $15,000 Western Union transaction and make a $658.81 payment on the Armed Forces Bank loan account the day it was activated, according to the complaint. Surveillance footage also captured him attempting purchases at a video game store and a dollar store, authorities alleged.

The fraud was detected by the bank, which alerted law enforcement officials, Postman said. None of Allen’s other accounts was compromised, and the only transaction that apparently made it through was the loan payment, he said.

Investigators found Price had been listed since June 2010 as absent without leave from the Army and was wanted as a deserter, authorities said. He was arrested March 2, as first reported by WPXI-TV, and an Army spokesman said he was returned to Fort Polk in Louisiana.

Citibank is not talking, citing customer confidentiality rules, and Price’s lawyer did not return a call Tuesday.

But there’s no reason to assume that a public figure like Allen is any less susceptible to identity theft, experts said.

Nearly everyone has personal information readily available online — more so for public figures like Allen — that can provide answers to many basic security questions like birthdate, address, mother’s maiden name, pet’s name and high school name, said Nikki Junker of the Identity Theft Resource Center, a nonprofit providing victim services and consumer education about identity theft.

Too few customers take advantage of added layers of security offered by many credit card companies, such as using unique verbal passwords or signing up for automatic alerts when account information is changed, Junker said.

“As we strive for more convenience, the safety goes down,” she said. “You would think being one of the richest men in the world would make you more careful about your account.”

Allen made the bulk of his fortune founding Microsoft Corp. with Bill Gates in 1975. He left the company in 1983 and now owns the Seattle Seahawks and the Portland Trail Blazers. He is the founder and chairman of Vulcan Inc., the company that manages his business and charitable undertakings.

Forbes estimates Allen’s net worth at $14.2 billion.

“On one hand, you can say that there’s lots we can find out about the Paul Allens of the world,” said Dennis Adsit, vice president of consulting services for KomBea Corp., a company that develops security technology for call centers. “On the other hand, a guy like Paul Allen can hire and pay someone to scrub his information on the Internet, to make him more bulletproof.”

About 280,000 cases of identity theft were reported in 2011, according to the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. That includes complaints through the Better Business Bureau and state attorney general offices and other law enforcement agencies.

Jeff Blyskal, senior editor at Consumer Reports, noted that banks “do have systems in place” to counter fraud.

“This is surprising that they would do this,” he said of the allegations that Price simply called the bank on Jan. 9 and changed Allen’s address, called again Jan. 12 identifying himself as Allen and asking for a replacement debit card, and got a debit card delivered to his own home the next day.

“They have ways to ID you when you call up,” Blyskal said. “Passcodes, security questions.”

Citibank would not comment on how the address on the account was changed or any other details. The bank will continue to work with investigators, spokeswoman Catherine Pulley said in an emailed statement.

One likely bonus for Allen? “If your bank gives your money away to someone else, you shouldn’t have to pay for it. You’re not going to be liable for it,” Blyskal said.

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Associated Press writer Joe Mandak in Pittsburgh contributed to this report.

Article source: http://www.businessweek.com/ap/2012-03/D9TP3A400.htm

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Nurse’s Aide Accused Of Identity Theft

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

POSTED: 7:25 pm EDT March 27, 2012
UPDATED: 7:36 pm EDT March 27, 2012

Article source: http://www.wlky.com/news/30775298/detail.html

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Identity Theft Kingpin Pleads Guilty

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

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 Fashion Island 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.

Article source: http://newportbeach.patch.com/articles/identity-theft-kingpin-pleads-guilty

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