LOS ANGELES (CNS) — A Canoga Park man who worked with a tax preparer to carry out a large-scale stolen-identity and tax-refund fraud scheme was sentenced to 52 months in federal prison.
Arthur Bakunts, 40, was also ordered by U.S. District Judge Dale S. Fischer to pay a total of $741,259 in restitution and to serve three years on supervised release after he gets out of prison, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Bakunts pleaded guilty in November to one count each of wire fraud and illegally possessing the means of identification of another person.
The case against Bakunts stemmed, in part, from documents — including identity profiles, tax refund checks and other trappings of identity theft — found in his car when he was stopped at a sobriety checkpoint in Glendale in 2014.
Subsequent investigation revealed that Bakunts was working with Ashrf Mohammed Aly, the former owner of Speedy Tax Service in West Covina, who used the stolen identity information to prepare fraudulent federal and state income tax returns in the names of the identity theft victims, which Bakunts then filed, according to federal prosecutors.
The bogus returns led to tax authorities issuing refund checks — $612,259 from the U.S. Treasury and $129,000 from the state of California, court documents show.
Bakunts admitted in his plea agreement that more than 340 phony tax returns had been filed as part of the scheme.
Fischer ordered that during the period of supervised release, Bakunts will be required to do 20 hours of community service each week, unless he is otherwise gainfully employed.
Aly pleaded guilty in December to one count of wire fraud and is scheduled to be sentenced by Fischer on April 9 in downtown Los Angeles.