Federal prosecutors say tobacco distributors used dummy corporations and false invoices to evade more than $35 million in California excise taxes over the past five years.

The U.S. attorney's office in Sacramento unsealed indictments Monday against three companies and 15 people, all but one of whom were arrested last week in Los Angeles. The other was arrested in Las Vegas.

The indictments allege the distributors and wholesalers sold cigars, chewing tobacco and leaf tobacco for cash or without properly reporting sales to the state.

The indictments were filed in Sacramento and Los Angeles and were the result of a three-year investigation by state and federal authorities.

Prosecutors could not immediately say whether the defendants had retained attorneys.