A former employee at the Los Angeles County Department of Public Social Services in Lancaster was sentenced this week to a year and a half in federal prison for her part in a scheme in which stolen identities were used to file phony tax returns, claiming thousands of dollars in refunds.

Veronica Niko, 36, of Lancaster, pleaded guilty in January to a single identity theft violation and admitted that identities she stole were used to file phony returns in the names of 64 different people, causing a loss to the Internal Revenue Service of more than $357,000.

Her husband, Thomas “T-Mac” Marshall, 37, also pleaded guilty to his role in the conspiracy to submit false claims for tax refunds to the IRS. He was previously sentenced to about five years behind bars.

Another defendant, Mao Niko, 40, of Lynwood, pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy to submit false claims to the IRS, and was sentenced to two years in federal prison.

Michael Williams, 42, of Palmdale, and 34-year-old Mike Niko of Carson pleaded guilty in May before U.S. District Judge Dale Fischer. They face up to 10 years each in prison at sentencing Sept. 9.

The charges stem from a 17-count indictment filed in January 2012 against the five defendants for conspiring to defraud the United States by filing false federal income tax returns.

The bogus tax returns claimed the First Time Homebuyer Credit and/or the Earned Income Credit, even though the individuals on whose behalf the returns were filed did not authorize or know about the filing of the returns, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Prosecutors said Williams and two co-defendants pretended to be tax preparers and established bank accounts to receive fraudulently obtained refunds.