A former Pico Rivera businessman was sentenced Monday to prison and home detention for carrying out a stolen identity refund-fraud scheme in which he conspired to use stolen identities to file phony tax returns that generated about $550,000 in unearned refunds.
Frank Ruben Candelaria, 55, of Los Angeles, was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release, which will include six months of home detention, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
He was also ordered by U.S. District Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald to pay about $550,000 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service.
According to the plea agreement filed in the case, beginning in December 2008 and continuing through September 2009, Candelaria and co-conspirator Edgar Rene Nunez, 62, caused at least 143 fraudulent income tax returns to be filed with the IRS.
As a result of fraudulent tax returns that sought well over $1 million in refunds, the IRS issued more than $550,000 in tax refund checks.
Prosecutors said Nunez and others obtained the names and Social Security numbers of individuals without their knowledge. The co-conspirators created bogus W-2 forms in the names of the identity theft victims that reported false employment and income information, as well as false tax withholding amounts, according to prosecutors.
Using the bogus information reported on the W-2 forms, fraudulent individual income tax returns were prepared and filed claiming false tax refunds without the knowledge or consent of the identity theft victims. The fraudulent tax refunds were then either mailed to addresses that Candelaria and Nunez, as well as others, controlled or directly deposited to bank accounts, prosecutors said.’
Candelaria pleaded guilty in November 2015 to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and two counts of making false claims against the United States by filing fraudulent tax returns in his own name, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Candelaria also filed phony tax returns in his own name for the 2006 and 2007 tax years, claiming false refunds of $9,955 and $9,720, respectively, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Nunez was sentenced in September to four months behind bars after pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to submit false claims, nine counts of submitting false claims against the United States government, two counts of mail fraud and one count of identity theft.