"Southland" star C. Thomas Howell concocted an elaborate scheme to swindle $220,000 from a film investor -- using fake bank accounts and forged documents -- this according to a new lawsuit ... but Thomas tells TMZ he's a victim too.
Blackacre Entertainment filed the suit in L.A. Monday, claiming Howell and two other defendants asked them to invest $220,000 for a film called "Bite" ... money which Howell said was necessary to shake loose $11 MILLION in funding for the flick.
BE claims Howell assured them it was legit and the $$$ would be returned in 30 days ... plus $66,000 for the trouble.
But BE says they never saw a dime ... and it was all a giant scam.
BE claims Howell tricked them with forged docs, a fake bank account (which showed an $11 mil balance), and phony conference calls between BE and phantom Bank of America managers.
BE is suing for $286,000 plus punitive damages.
Howell tells TMZ ... he has filed his own lawsuits regarding the case -- claiming he was duped into raising the $220k by a fraudulent third party -- and had NO IDEA it was a scam.
He says he has contacted the FBI to investigate the case.