SANTA ANA (CNS) - The owner of an OrangeCounty tree-trimming business pleaded guilty to dodging workers' compensation insurance costs and state taxes by paying some employees in cash for several years and was sentenced to five  years in prison, according to court records obtained today.

Jose Luis Guerrero, 45, of Fullerton, who owned Jose Martinez Tree Service Inc., under-reported more than $2 million in payroll to the State  Compensation Insurance Fund between March 2005 and March 2009.

Guerrero had some employees on a State Compensation Insurance Fund policy, but they were mostly clerical, ostensibly to keep premiums lower because there's less chance of a work-related injury, Deputy District Attorney Debbie Jackson said when Guerrero was charged.

One employee was seriously injured in an on-the-job vehicle crash on May 2, 2007, that left him unable to work, Jackson said. Guerrero filed an insurance claim on his the State Compensation Insurance Fund policy for the worker, though he never paid a premium for him, Jackson said.

Another employee, Gabriel Gonzalez, was killed Nov. 7, 2007, when he fell into a wood chipper, Jackson said. Guerrero filed an insurance claim for Gonzalez, as well, despite not paying a premium for him, Jackson said.

State Compensation Insurance Fund officials uncovered the fraud during a review of Guerrero's business following Gonzalez's death, Jackson said.

The State Compensation Insurance Fund still paid off on the benefits to Gonzalez's family and the other worker who was hurt on the job, Jackson said.

Guerrero pleaded guilty Friday to 20 counts of intent to evade taxes, four counts of false or fraudulent statements to reduce premiums, and two counts of making fraudulent statements to obtain or deny compensation, all felonies. He also pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of possession of an assault weapon, according to court records.

Guerrero also admitted sentencing enhancements for aggravated white collar crime between $100,000 to $500,000 and theft exceeding $150,000.

When Guerrero was charged two years ago he was accused of failing to pay the State Compensation Insurance Fund $619,000 and owing $81,000 in state taxes, according to Jackson.