MAN TO BE ARRAIGNED FOR EMBEZZLING OVER $350,000 IN EMPLOYEE WAGES FROM PUBLIC WORKS CONTRACTS AND FILING FALSE TAX RETURNS TO HIDE THEFT

For Immediate Release
Case # 12ZF0133






May 22, 2012

Susan Kang Schroeder
Chief of Staff
Office: 714-347-8408
Cell: 714-292-2718

Farrah Emami
Spokesperson
Office: 714-347-8405
Cell: 714-323-4486

MAN TO BE ARRAIGNED FOR EMBEZZLING OVER $350,000 IN EMPLOYEE WAGES FROM PUBLIC WORKS CONTRACTS AND FILING FALSE TAX RETURNS TO HIDE THEFT

*This is the first prosecution in Orange County for fraud related to a public works contract

 

SANTA ANA – A man will be arraigned on an indictment tomorrow for embezzling over $350,000 in employee wages from public work contracts and filing false tax returns to hide his theft. This is the first prosecution of its kind in Orange County for fraud related to a public works contract. Reza Mohammedi, 57, Tustin, is charged with 15 felony counts of failing to file a return with the intent to evade tax, 15 felony counts of willful failure to pay tax, seven felony counts of taking and receiving a portion of a worker’s wage on public work, six felony counts of recording false and forged instruments, and three felony counts of filing false tax returns. He also faces sentencing enhancement allegations for loss exceeding $100,000 and property damage over $200,000 and a prior strike conviction for criminal threats in 1999. If convicted on all counts, he faces a maximum sentence of 48 years in state prison. The defendant is being held on $500,000 bail and must prove the money is from a legal and legitimate source before posting bond. Reza is scheduled to be arraigned tomorrow, May 23, 2012, at 9:00 a.m. in Department C-5, Central Justice Center, Santa Ana.

 

Mohammedi is accused of owning and operating Southland Construction in the Counties of Orange, Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Bernardino. For the case in Orange County, he is accused of the following:

 

Between December 2008 and February 2012, Mohammedi is accused of entering into public works construction contracts with the Cities of Brea, Fullerton, Orange, Laguna Woods, County of Orange, the Saddleback Valley Unified School District, and the Orange County Transit Authority. The defendant is accused of hiring mostly undocumented Hispanic workers and threatening to call authorities if they reported his scheme.

 

Mohammedi is accused of coaching his workers on what to say if a public works inspector asked them questions regarding their wages. He is accused of systematically submitting fraudulent Certified Payroll Reports falsely stating that he was paying his workers the correct wage of $42 to $53 an hour for each project. Instead, the defendant is accused of paying his employees $13 an hour. The defendant is accused of handing out payroll checks with the correct wage amount to have proof of payment. Mohammedi is accused of then requiring his employees to return a majority of their pay to him after they cashed their checks, either in cash, by instructing them to use their “excess” wages to pay for project materials, or supply another worker’s pay in cash. Using this scheme, the defendant is accused of embezzling over $350,000 in employee wages from his public works contracts for his own use. 

 

Between 2008 and May 2012, Mohammedi is accused of failing to accurately report employee wages and filing two false and fraudulent reports of employee wages with the Employment Development Department (EDD). The defendant is accused of failing to provide his employees with W-2 forms until 2009, and then falsely reporting their wages at the correct wage rate while paying them significantly less. Mohammedi is accused of filing false income tax reports with the Franchise Tax Board (FTB) to hide the theft.  He is accused of taking tax deductions for wages he did not pay to his employees.