A Lancaster man pleaded on Monday to creating fake businesses and misappropriating peoples’ identities to receive fraudulent tax refunds and unemployment insurance benefits.
Carl Steven Artis, 54, formerly of North Hollywood, entered his plea in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles to one count each of mail fraud and false claims against the U.S. government.
Artis is scheduled to be sentenced on May 18. He faces up to 25 years imprisonment and a fine of $500,000. In addition, he may be ordered to pay restitution of up to $598,000.
Artis defrauded the California Employment Development Department between August 2010 to August 2014, while living in North Hollywood, according to a press release issued by the Los Angeles field office of the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation unit.
Prosecutors said he registered fictitious companies with the EDD, submitted false wage information for bogus employees and then obtained unemployment insurance benefits in the names of these individuals. In addition, Artis obtained Social Security numbers and other information for people in prison, and submitted them as employees of the bogus companies.
None of the individuals ever worked for the fake companies, received wages or even lived at the addresses listed on the forms. In total, Artis submitted about 61 fraudulent unemployment insurance claims and defrauded the state government of $498,480.
At the same time, Artis used the bogus companies and fake employees as the basis for tax fraud, prosecutors said.
For each of the workers, Artis generated fictitious IRS W-2 Forms, falsely claiming the companies withheld money from their wages in excess of the amount owed. In total, Artis filed about 83 fraudulent income tax returns, and the IRS paid out $99,520 before the scam was discovered.
The investigation was conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor, the California Employment Development Department, and the IRS in conjunction with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.