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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Two More Charged in Taupa Lithuanian Fraud Case

Two Ohio men were charged Tuesday for allegedly embezzling nearly $1.9 million in a massive fraud case that led to the collapse of the $23.6 million Taupa Lithuanian Credit Union in Cleveland in July 2013, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office in Cleveland.

Gary Chaney, 49, of Streetsboro, and Patrick Bruckman, 58, of Chester Township, both Cleveland suburbs, were each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit theft or embezzlement from a credit union.

Bruckman and Chaney maintained personal accounts at the cooperative, as well as a corporate account for Network Systems Engineering a computer consulting firm they owned, according to the court documents.

These two men and four others including Alex Spirikaitis, Taupa Lithuanian’s former president/CEO, allegedly conspired to defraud the credit union from 2007 through 2013.

The fraud case caused a $33.5 million loss to NCUSIF, according to the NCUA Office of Inspector General’s material loss report.

Bruckman and Chaney allegedly wrote checks drawn on their personal and corporate accounts for which there were insufficient funds, court papers show.

Chaney withdrew approximately $241,000 from his personal account. Bruckman withdrew approximately $63,000 from his personal account. Both collectively withdrew $1.5 million from their corporate accounts for which there were insufficient funds. The total loss to the credit union was $1.8 million, federal prosecutors alleged.

Although Chaney and Bruckman did not have sufficient funds in their accounts to cover their withdrawals, Spirikaitis allowed the overdrafts to clear their accounts. Chaney and Bruckman also never submitted any credit applications or loan documentation for the money they received from Spirikaitis to cover their overdrafts, according to court documents.

Last week, John Struna, 51, of the Cleveland suburb of Concord Township, was indicted for allegedly embezzling $2.3 million from Taupa Lithuanian. He was indicted on one count each for conspiracy to commit bank fraud, bank fraud, and making false statements. He also was indicted on four counts of money laundering.

Spirikaitis pleaded guilty in February to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud.

He admitted to embezzling $4.2 million from Taupa Lithuanian between 2001 and 2013. With the funds, he built a $1.6 million home in an affluent Cleveland suburb, paid for a stadium luxury suite at Cleveland Browns games and bought nine vehicles, according to court documents.

Spirikaitis is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 23.

Earlier this year, former teller Michael Ruksenas pleaded guilty to conspiring with Spirikaitis to embezzle more than $481,000 and former bookkeeper Vytas Apanavicius pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit embezzlement. He admitted to stealing nearly a million dollars from Taupa Lithuanian, with help from Spirikaitis.

In February, Ruksenas was sentenced to 17 months in federal prison. Apanavicius is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 28.

Federal prosecutors expect to charge a former credit union employee who has been identified only by the  initials, A.B., according to court documents.

The NCUA and the Ohio Department of Commerce took possession of Taupa Lithuanian in July 2013 and placed it into receivership because of insolvency. The Cleveland cooperative served about 1,150 members.

Embezzling Jacksonville banker sentenced to 5 years

Embezzling Jacksonville banker Christopher David Boston was sentenced to five years in prison Tuesday afternoon for embezzling at least $10.5 million from his job at Fifth Third Bank over a four-year period.
Boston, 40, pleaded guilty in March to bank fraud. He also must pay $2 million in restitution to the bank after he's released. He faced up to 30 years in prison and a $4.4 million fine.
Boston's sentencing was delayed last month after Senior U.S. District Judge Henry Lee Adams Jr. recused himself for an undisclosed reason. District Judge Brian Davis will handle the sentencing.
Boston had been free on bond and was recently allowed by a judge to travel to Ohio to help his parents with home repair issues before returning to Jacksonville for sentencing, court records show.
Boston operated a bank-fraud scheme that included stealing at least $10.5 million from one corporate account and transferring money from two individual accounts to cover the original thefts. The embezzlement occurred over 3 1/2 years ending in April 2013 at the Fifth Third Bank off San Jose Boulevard in north Mandarin.
A victim of the scheme whose husband lost and then got back nearly $6 million told the Times-Union that Boston’s actions devastated her family and refuted any notion of him being considered a Robin Hood-like character for helping his customers.
Court records show Boston used $210,000 to make $2,000 monthly mortgage payments on his family’s Mandarin home, install a backyard pool and for other expenses. The home on Emilys Crossing Court was turned over to Boston’s wife in a divorce last year, and Boston said he’s now living in another Mandarin home in the 11500 block of Summer Brook Court.
Prosecutors said Boston used the rest of the embezzled money to help his customers, and ultimately his own standing in the bank, with favors such as paying off troubled loans and making “off-book” loans to those whose applications had been denied.
The bank replenished the embezzled accounts and had arranged new loans with Boston’s customers, recovering all but about $2 million, which is federally insured, court records show.
Boston, never arrested, was asked to sign a $20,000 signature bond. Prosecutors didn’t seek detention since they considered him neither a threat to the community nor, with a 2-year-old son, a flight risk.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Lake County businessman recharged for embezzlement of $2.3 million from Taupa Lithuanian Credit Union in Cleveland

A federal grand jury has recharged a Lake County businessman, John Struna, in the embezzlement of $2.3 million from Taupa Lithuanian Credit Union of Cleveland.

The seven-count indictment charges Struna with seven counts of bank fraud, making false statements and money laundering. The indictment replaces a one-count, $2.5 million information filed against Struna in January.

Credit union CEO Alex Spirikaitis, former teller Michael Ruksenas and Vytas Apanavicius, a Mentor accountant, have been convicted of similar charges of defrauding the Taupa credit union, according to a news release from the office of Steven Dettelbach, U. S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio.

“This defendant is charged as part of a group that used others' hard earned savings as a personal piggy bank,” Dettelbach said in the release. “Mr. Struna’s greed has caught up with him with this indictment.”

The National Credit Union Administration and the Ohio Department of Commerce placed Taupa into receivership last year, due to its insolvency. The credit union had about 1,150 members and assets of approximately $24 million, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Defendant in Detroit Mortgage Fraud Conspiracy Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy to Commit Bank Fraud in Michigan

In July of 2013, seven individuals were indicted for the roles they played in a Detroit mortgage fraud operation. Those who were indicted by a federal grand jury in the Eastern District Court of Michigan included Peter Allen, Suhail Hallak, Al Karana, Wasseem Shamoun, Joey Murad, Jeffrey Najor, and Jason Najor. The defendants were alleged to have used fraudulent information for the purpose of obtaining mortgage loans from banks and lending institutions beginning in January of 2006, and continuing until December of 2008. muB6xyw

It was announced by the Department of Justice on August 12, 2014 that Wasseem Shamoun has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud. Shamoun pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. According to the July 2013 indictment, the scheme resulted in area banks and financial institutions paying out fraudulent mortgage loan funds that totaled approximately $10 million.

Five of the seven defendants were charged with 20 counts of bank fraud each, including Shamoun. Several agencies assisted in the investigation including the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration), the IRS – Criminal Investigation, and the FBI. According to the release issued by the Department of Justice, Shamoun was personally responsible for a loss of approximately $394,000 to local financial institutions.

Shamoun and his co-defendants are said to have devised a scheme in which property was purchased in amounts ranging from $5,000 to $40,000 per home. The defendants then recruited straw buyers who would be paid a fee to submit fraudulent home mortgage loan applications. The prices paid to the defendants by straw buyers for single family homes ranged from $90,000 to $120,000 per home, with the defendants paying themselves $10,000 to $50,000 commissions.

Shamoun is scheduled to be sentenced on December 2, and faces a $1 million fine and statutory maximum prison term of 30 years for his role in the conspiracy.

Federal crimes such as conspiracy to defraud financial institutions in schemes such as the one described above are extremely serious. Individuals who are accused of mortgage fraud conspiracy or other federal crimes must consult with an experienced and aggressive Michigan criminal defense attorney in order to obtain the best possible results.

Broken Arrow Woman Sentenced for Bank Fraud and Tax Evasion in Oklahoma

A former manager of a credit union was sentenced on Tuesday to serve 27 months for each count of bank fraud and tax evasion, announced U.S. Attorney Danny C. Williams Sr. for the Northern District of Oklahoma and Special Agent in Charge R. Damon Rowe of the Dallas field office for the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation.

Eva Barroso, 54, of Broken Arrow, was sentenced to serve 27 months in federal prison by U.S. District Judge Chief Judge Gregory K Frizzell for one count each of bank fraud and tax evasion. At the time of the scheme, Barroso worked as a commercial services manager for Oklahoma Central Credit Union (OCCU) where her duties included marketing and servicing commercial loans. The Court entered a criminal forfeiture money judgment against the defendant in the amount of $238,177.42 representing proceeds obtained as a result of his bank fraud scheme. Barroso was also ordered to make restitution in the amount of $238,177.42 to OCCU and $57,360.50 to the Internal Revenue Service.

According to court documents, from July 2, 2009 to March 19, 2012, as part of the scheme, Barroso fabricated at least three false loans in the name of nominee entities and individuals without the knowledge and authorization of the purported borrower. Barroso admitted that she made various material false representations in obtaining these loans. She used the proceeds of these loans for her own personal benefit, including making ATM withdrawals at various casinos. To further the scheme, Barroso used some of the money to make payments on prior loans.

In addition, during the 2010 calendar year, Barroso willfully evaded a large part of income tax by failing to report to the Internal Revenue Service a total of $152,098.13 which was the money she fraudulently obtained from the scheme.

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation and was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jeffrey Gallant and Catherine Depew on behalf of the United States.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Former Bank Adjuster Pleads Guilty To Stealing More Than $400,000 in Conn.

 A former bank employee has pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to one count of embezzlement from a federally-insured bank, admitting she used her position to embezzle more than $400,000 to pay debts.

Maria Rosa Esteves, 40, of Bridgeport waived her right to an indictment with her plea Thursday, the U.S. Attorney's office said.

According to court documents, Esteves was employed by People's United Bank from 1993 to 2014. Starting in 2006, she worked primarily in the bank's Adjustments Department, rising to the position of lead adjuster. Her responsibilities included arranging for bank cashiers' checks to be issued to customers whose accounts need to be adjusted, the U.S. Attorney's office said.

Esteves stole more than $400,000 from the bank by using cashiers' checks that she would then use to pay people or organizations to whom she owed money, such as her utility company, homeowner's insurance company and mortgage providers, the documents show.

Esteves also embezzled money by depositing cashiers' checks into bank accounts she controlled, said U.S. Attorney's spokesman Thomas Carson.

In all, Esteves misappropriated more than 300 cashiers' checks, he said.

She faces a maximum prison term of 30 years, a fine of up to $1 million and an order of restitution when she is sentenced in U.S. District Court in Hartford Nov. 7.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Waldbusser sentenced for bank fraud in Iowa

Former Wells Fargo bank manager Nicholas Waldbusser was sentenced Thursday to 21 months in prison for bank fraud.

Judge Sara Darrow said the theater enthusiast's passion for acting likely helped Mr. Waldbusser conceal a $200,000 embezzlement scheme. She described the 26-year-old man as charismatic, well-liked and intelligent -- but also manipulative of people's trust.

"You were able to draw upon your acting skills to deceive other individuals," she told Mr. Waldbusser.

In April, Mr. Waldbusser pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court, Rock Island, to one count of bank fraud in exchange for the dismissal of 14 similar counts. On Thursday he was ordered to repay approximately $197,000 in stolen funds -- the result of 18 months of embezzlement from the Wells Fargo branch at 4218 Avenue of the Cities, Moline, prosecutors said.

As branch supervisor, Mr. Waldbusser kept track of bank funds and was responsible for the audit process, which he manipulated in order to disguise the thefts, prosecutors said.

Calling his actions "a series of almost daily mistakes," Judge Darrow said she felt obliged to use Mr. Waldbusser as an example to deter others from similar crimes. She ordered him to self-report Sept. 22 to start his sentence, adding she would recommend an in-state minimum security men's prison.

Mr. Waldbusser spoke briefly in court to thank family and investigators who worked on the case.

"I have learned my lesson," he said.

At the start of the hearing, prosecuting attorney Don Allegro expressed frustration at what he perceived were excuses -- including depression, anxiety and struggles with self-identity -- given by the defense for Mr. Waldbusser's behavior.

"He lived a lavish lifestyle," Mr. Allegro said, citing drugs, vacations, prostitutes, basement renovations and expensive suits Mr. Waldbusser bought with swindled funds. Mr. Allegro also said authorities found $1,900 in cash under a mattress when they raided Mr. Waldbusser's home.

Mr. Waldbusser may have been a "nice guy" without prior criminal history, Mr. Allegro said. "But how much money do you have to steal before you get sent to prison -- not because you're a bad person, but to send a message?"

Mr. Allegro advocated for a nonspecific amount of prison time. He said he believed that, had Mr. Waldbusser not been caught by Wells Fargo security, the thefts would have continued.

He said Mr. Waldbusser also conspired with a bank teller to help in the scheme, but authorities chose not to prosecute the teller who no longer works at the bank.

Mr. Waldbusser's attorney, Federal Public Defender George Taseff, asked Judge Darrow not to make his client's case about going after "the Enron's and the white-collar guys." That was a fight for lawmakers, he said.

Mr. Taseff said the recent death of Robin Williams renewed a national dialog about depression faced privately by many performers. Mr. Waldbusser had been "living in a way that was destined to crash and burn. It was unstable," he said, adding his client is seeking counseling.

Mr. Taseff scrolled through a slideshow of pictures in the courtroom depicting Mr. Waldbusser in high school and local theater productions. They included a copy of a May 2011 article from The Dispatch/Rock Island Argus in which Mr. Waldbusser was interviewed about his role in a community show.

"I love creating a person that is fictional and that nobody knows," Mr. Waldbusser was quoted as saying. "I love to tell a story; that's what theater is, creating a story and telling it live."