A Wildomar business operator faces up to 17 years behind bars for his conviction in a $3.1 million worker’s compensation fraud case prosecutors are calling precedent-setting for Riverside County.
Jurors on Friday convicted defendant Steven Morales, 65, on three counts of workers’ compensation fraud and one count each of tax fraud and perjury.
Morales is jailed at the Robert Presley Detention Center awaiting sentencing Oct. 15.
Morales’ conviction caps a 13-month investigation by the DA’s office when it was alerted by the state in 2008 that Morales and his son, Brian Todd Morales, were forming and using various names for their businesses — like Shelby Framing and Shelby Development — to hide payroll and avoid having to pay worker’s compensation premiums, prosecutors said.
The probe determined Morales and his son cheated more than 400 employees out of insurance premiums for unemployment insurance from 2005 to 2008, prosecutors said.
Brian Morales, 44, also of Wildomar, was prosecuted in the same case and pleaded guilty in January 2010 to three worker’s compensation fraud counts and another count for tax fraud.
The younger Morales was sentenced April 2010 to four years in prison and ordered to pay $3.1 million in restitution.