Brothers sentenced to federal prison for public housing fraud scheme

Two Burbank brothers were each sentenced Monday to nearly two years in federal prison for conspiring to steal more than $500,000 that was intended for public housing for the disabled, according to the U.S. Attorney General’s Office.

In addition to prison sentences of 21 months each, Diego L. Taracena, 36, and Bennett A. Taracena, 31, were ordered to pay $526,727 in restitution to the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles.

A third brother charged in the case, Victor Taracena, remains at large. He allegedly accepted kickbacks as manager of the housing authority’s construction program for public housing units that are occupied by disabled residents.

As part of the scheme, the Diego and Bennett Taracena established four sham companies through which they secured $526,727 from the housing authority over 3 1/2 years, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.


None of the work for which they were paid was ever performed, prosecutors said.

At the same time, Diego and Bennett Taracena were allegedly paying kickbacks to their brother, Victor Taracena, totaling $106,975. At least $30,000 of that money was wired to a Guatemalan bank account and used to purchase property there, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Diego and Bennett Taracena pleaded guilty earlier this year to conspiracy charges.
The case against the Taracenas was investigated jointly by the FBI and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

-- Maria Hsin, Times Community News


Twitter: @mariahsin