SEABROOK — The simple act of leaving his wallet on the counter helped police catch an Arizona man who will spend the next 12 months in jail, convicted of an elaborate credit card fraud scheme police traced back to New York state.
According to Seabrook prosecutor Scott Mendes, Gilbert Gonzales, 48, of 6632 East 42nd St., Tucson, pleaded guilty on Wednesday to fraudulent use of a credit card as part of a plea deal that reduced the charge from a felony to a misdemeanor.
“The plea deal was worked out with the defendant and federal law enforcement agencies who could be bringing additional federal charges against Gonzales in the near future,” Mendes said yesterday.
Mendes said this complex case unfolded in Seabrook on Monday, Dec. 3, when officer Patrick Smart was called to the local Radio Shack because a customer had left his wallet.
Gonzales purchased two Samsung Galaxy III cellphones without service contracts for a total of $1,200 using a credit card issued to “Tony Diaz,” but forgot his wallet on the counter, Mendes said.
As Smart sat in his cruiser looking through the wallet, he noticed problems.
“There was one ID with Gonzales’ name on it and another ID with the name Tony Diaz on it, plus a bunch of credit cards in the name of Tony Diaz,” Mendes said. “Then the manager of Radio Shack brought over to the officer the man who had returned to claim his wallet.”
Smart arrested Gonzales on credit card fraud charges, as Seabrook police continued the investigation. Within a short time, Gonzales was charged with possession of a false Connecticut state government ID for Tony Diaz, and then 10 counts of identity fraud for the 10 different credit cards all in Diaz’ name.
“Tony Diaz is a fictitious person created by Gonzales,” Mendes said. “I reached out to the Secret Service to investigate this and learned Gonzales has an enormous criminal background. He’s done this in many other states. I was able to track him to New York.”
Mendes believes Gonzales may have been staying with friends in Methuen. But he was shopping in Seabrook at the time of his arrest and had he not been caught, he could have inflicted a lot of financial damage on local retailers by buying up other expensive items during the Christmas shopping season.
Mendes said he withdrew the other charges after Gonzales pleaded out to the more serious fraudulent use of a credit card charge, which carried jail time.
Praising all involved in the case, Mendes said he was happy the case resulted in a conviction that will keep Gonzales behind bars and away from local stores.
Gonzales was sentenced to the house of correction by Justice Mark Weaver of the 10th Circuit Court, Seabrook District Division. Gonzales received credit for 17 days pretrial probation, Mendes said, as he never made the half-million dollar bail he was assigned at his arraignment. ___