A former U.S. Marine Corps staff sergeant was will spend two and half years in federal prison over a scheme to defraud the Marine Corps and the children’s charity Toys for Tots.
Christopher Aragon, 32, previously served as the supply chief for the Marine’s 3rd Force Reconnaissance Company in Mobile. In that role, he also served as the program coordinator for the Marine Corps Reserve’s Toys for Tots program.
According to U.S. Attorney Richard Moore’s office, Aragon possessed a credit card linked to the 3rd Force Recon’s local Toys for Tots account. According to his guilty plea, Aragon misused that card for his own personal gain between 2013 and 2014 — a conspiracy he’s said to have planned and executed with the help of his wife and co-defendant, Teneshia Aragon.
“Unbeknownst to the foundation, Aragon used the credit card to make unauthorized payments to himself,” Moore’s office wrote in a press release Friday afternoon. “[He] prepared fraudulent documents, such as invoices, and submitted them to the Toys for Tots Foundation, which ultimately lost around $23,044.70 due to the criminal conduct.”
However, in Aragon’s plea agreement, he admits he and Teneshia ran a larger embezzlement scheme that wrongfully charged the Marine Corps hundreds of thousands of dollars through falsified invoices that were submitted to the Corps with the assistance of a local restaurateur.
Aragon admitted to working with his wife and Dana Davis, owner of the Runway Café restaurant in Mobile, to achieve personal financial gain by making “unauthorized, fraudulent charges to a unit travel card” at the restaurant on several occasions between 2014 and 2016. The Runway Café is a casual lunch and dinner diner in the Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley.
Court records show he prepared false documents, such as invoices and personnel rosters, and submitted them to the Marine Corps, but when officials conducted a subsequent audit, they noticed excessive discrepancies in food expenditures submitted by Aragon.
Several Runway Café invoices were not submitted at times when there were official 3rd Force Recon activities, while others billed for more meals than could have possibly been consumed by the number of Marines on the company’s roster. Some invoices also contained unauthorized fees.
In all, the criminal conspiracy caused a financial loss to the Marine Corps of around $554,044.08, $20,000 of which the Runway Café has already repaid. Combined with the Toys for Tots’ scheme, Aragon defrauded the Marines out of close to $558,000.
U.S. District Judge Callie V.S. Granade sentenced Aragon to 33 months in prison for the pair of conspiracies on Sept. 21. As part of the sentence, Aragon will also have to undergo three years of supervised release, receive mental health treatment and undergo credit restrictions.
He’s also ordered to pay $534,044 in restitution to the Marine Corps Forces Reserve and repay an additional $20,044.70 to the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation. Because the Aragon’s home was traceable to criminal proceeds, it will be subject to forfeiture.
All three defendants pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud the Marine Corps in May. Teneshia Aragon has since been sentenced to five years of probation with the first six months to be served in home confinement. She was ordered to make full restitution to the defrauded Marine Corps programs.
After six months of imprisonment, Davis must also make full restitution to the Marine Corps.
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