LOS ANGELES—Two brothers each were sentenced today to nearly two years in federal prison for conspiring to steal more than $500,000 from the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles (HACLA).
Diego L. Taracena, 36, and Bennett A. Taracena, 31, both of Burbank, each were each sentenced to 21 months’ imprisonment and ordered to pay $526,727 in restitution to HACLA.
A third brother charged in this case, Victor Taracena, managed HACLA’s construction program for public housing units occupied by disabled residents, and the money his brothers stole was intended to build accommodations that complied with the American with Disabilities Act. Victor Taracena is currently a fugitive being sought by federal authorities.
Diego Taracena and Bennett Taracena each pleaded guilty earlier this year to conspiracy charges. As part of the scheme, Diego and Bennett Taracena established four sham companies to get contracts from HACLA. After establishing bank accounts for those sham companies, Diego and Bennet Taracena accepted $526,727 from HACLA over the course of over three years. Despite receiving the payments, the companies did not perform any actual work.
During the scheme, Diego Taracena and Bennett Taracena paid kickbacks totaling approximately $106,975 to Victor Taracena. At least $30,000 of those kickback payments were wired to a Guatemalan bank account, and some of this money was used to purchase property in Guatemala.
The case against the Taracenas was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Inspector General.