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Sunday, February 9, 2014

Spirikaitis Pleads Guilty in Cleveland

Alex R. Spirikaitis pleaded guilty Monday in U.S District Court to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud at the failed Taupa Lithuanian Credit Union.

The 51-year-old former president/CEO could be sentenced to 30 years in federal prison and a $1 million fine for his role in the $15 million embezzlement, one of the largest in credit union history. Spirikaitis did not make a statement in court regarding the plea.

His sentencing hearing will be held May 9.

Also Monday, former Bookkeeper Vytas Apanavicius pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit embezzlement and also faces a May 9 sentencing hearing.

Apanavicius owned VPA Accounting Inc., through which he provided bookkeeping and accounting services from 1995 through 2013. He is accused of stealing nearly a million dollars from Taupa Lithuanian, with help from Spirikaitis.

Spirikaitis admitted to personally embezzling about $4.2 million from Taupa Lithuanian between 2001 and 2013. With those stolen 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.

Spirikaitis also inexplicitly used embezzled credit union funds to amass an arsenal of semi-automatic weapons and more than 10,000 rounds of ammunition that he stored at the cooperative’s office in Cleveland.

Sometime after Spirikaitis was hired at the cooperative’s president/CEO in 1995, he began to conspire with three former employees and members to embezzle millions and managed to conceal that theft from auditors, the board of directors and members.

For years, the six individuals wrote checks against their credit union accounts with the understanding that Spirikaitis would not require them to make personal deposits to cover overdrafts. Additionally, Spirikaitis did not make personal deposits to cover overdrafts in his own accounts.

Instead, the former CEO transferred funds from Taupa Lithuanian internal accounts to cover the overdrafts. In many cases, these overdrafts amounted to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Spirikaitis initially concealed the embezzlement scheme by simply taping over Taupa’s financial statements with false information, which he provided to auditors. Court documents also show he later used a software program to manipulate and print financial statements.

Federal prosecutors also unveiled that Spirikaitis provided Taupa’s correspondent bank, Corporate One Federal Credit Union in Columbus, Ohio, with an incorrect zip code for Taupa’s auditors, which caused the original account statements from the correspondent bank to be mailed to a post office box in Cleveland that Spirikaitis controlled, allowing him to alter the statements.

Two other individuals, former teller Michael Ruksenas and credit union member John Struna, have each been charged with one count of conspiracy to commit embezzlement.

Three more people are expected to face charges in the coming days or weeks. Those individuals have been identified in court documents only by their initials.

A.B. was a full-time employee at Taupa Lithuanian CU from 1991 to 2004 and worked part-time at the credit union from 2004 to July 2013, according to court documents. Two other individuals, G.C. and P.B. were members and provided IT services to the cooperative from a company they jointly owned, show court documents.

The NCUA and the Ohio Department of Commerce took possession of Taupa Lithuanian and placed it into receivership due to its insolvency last July.

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