By Sandy Mazza STAFF WRITER A Hawthorne school cafeteria worker who stole the identities of hundreds of dead people in a scheme to defraud the government of about $1.1 million was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison Monday. Uzeegoa Makeba Sayles, 39, also was ordered to pay more than $600,000 in restitution. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREGame Center: Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, 10 a.m.In a May plea deal, Sayles admitted guilt to filing 204 false tax returns from 2001 to 2006. She was charged with filing only one false tax refund claim. The charge carries a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment. Sayles was given a lighter sentence because she admitted guilt and has no criminal history, court documents state. To create the fake tax documents, Sayles told investigators she lifted Social Security numbers and other identifying information from online databases. Then she instructed the Internal Revenue Service to deposit refunds at one of 19 bank accounts in her name and the names of family members, according to court documents. IRS agents were alerted to Sayles’ ruse last year when they discovered that several unrelated tax refunds were set to be deposited into the same bank account. They searched trash bins outside her Hawthorne home, and found copies of fake W-2 forms and other falsified tax documents, according to court records. Investigators then searched her home and conducted an interview with Sayles, during which she admitted to the crimes. Court documents state that Sayles, a mother of four, worked in the cafeteria at Ramona Elementary School in Hawthorne during the day and at a factory at night. Her attorney, Deputy Federal Public Defender John Littrell, asked the court to sentence her only to probation because she has no criminal history, had a difficult childhood and wanted to live at home to care for her children. “She knew what she was doing was wrong, but it seemed easy and consequences seemed only a remote possibility,” Littrell said. “The money Ms. Sayles received helped lift her out of poverty.” Prosecutor Mark Krause argued that Sayles’ lifestyle could not have been that humble because her stolen profits – about $100,000 per year – would have put her in the top 12 percent of the national population for income. Also, he said, Sayles told investigators she gambled most of the money. “Defendant would have the court believe that she engaged in criminal conduct as a way to supplement her two jobs and provide for her children,” Krause said. “This was a crime of greed – not love or necessity.” Los Angeles IRS Criminal Investigation Bureau spokesman Mike Moriarty said the agency has seen an increase this year of fraudulent tax refund schemes. From Oct. 1, 2006, to Sept. 30, 2007, the IRS investigated 259 similar crimes and prosecuted 198. That was up from 219 investigations, and 168 prosecutions in the previous 12 months. [email protected] local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!