CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – The owner of American Auto Pros in Corpus Christi has been ordered to federal prison after admitting he used numerous credit card accounts belonging to others in order to obtain things of value without authorization, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick. Antonio Arteaga, 38, of Corpus Christi, pleaded guilty Nov. 2, 2017, to one count of credit card fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft.
Tuesday, Senior U.S. District Judge Hilda G. Tagle handed Arteaga a 12-month sentence for the credit card fraud as well as a consecutive 24 months for the identity theft. The total sentence of three years will be immediately followed by an additional three years of supervised release. He was further ordered to pay restitution to his victims. In handing down the sentence, Judge Tagle noted she could put herself in the victims’ shoes, citing one victim that learned of the fraud when her credit card was declined at a gas pump and the ripple effect of bounced checks and missed payments which would follow the victims of his fraud. Judge Tagle went on to explain that Arteaga’s customers relied on his honesty in taking their credit cards as payment and the entire credit card system counts on the honesty of merchants.
Arteaga was arrested Aug. 18, 2017, following an investigation into a series of fraudulent ATM withdrawals in Corpus Christi and surrounding areas. Many of the victims had been customers at Arteaga’s business, American Auto Pros. Authorities executed a search warrant at the business which led to the discovery of a credit card processing pad that was connected to a laptop computer in the office. This allowed Arteaga to illegally capture the account information and PIN numbers of credit and debit cards used there.
During a subsequent search of Arteaga’s home, law enforcement found a magnetic strip encoder that had been used to replace the information on the magnetic strip of gift cards with the compromised credit and debit card numbers. Agents also found numerous altered gift cards with the encoder at Arteaga’s house and additional gift cards illegally re-encoded with victim’s credit card information in Arteaga’s vehicle and wallet.
Agents determined that between Dec. 10, 2016, and Aug. 18, 2017, Arteaga unlawfully used the credit and debit card information of dozens of American Auto Pros customers to withdraw tens of thousands of dollars from his victims’ accounts.
Arteaga was permitted to remain on bond and voluntarily surrender to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.
The Secret Service conducted the investigation with the assistance of the Corpus Christi Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert D. Thorpe Jr. is prosecuting the case.