The Cleveland FBI is stepping up efforts in its search for the former Taupa Lithuanian Credit Union CEO Alex Spirikaitis, releasing a new photo of him without his goatee.
Spirikaitis, who has been on the run for a week, is wanted by the FBI on charges of embezzlement in the failure of the $23.6 million Cleveland credit union.
After the photo was distributed to the local news media Tuesday, FBI Special Agent Vicki Anderson said new leads have been called in and agents are following up on them.
“Without his goatee, he looks amazingly different,” Anderson said, adding that the FBI is confident Spirikaitis will be captured with the public’s help. The federal law enforcement agency released Spirikaitis’ driver’s license photo last week, which shows him with a goatee.
Spirikaitis’ FBI wanted poster notes that he “should be considered armed and dangerous (and) may have suicidal tendencies.”
The FBI also reported the former CEO executive may flee to Canada and was last seen in Cleveland as well as the suburbs of Solon and Twinsburg, about 20 to 25 miles southeast of Cleveland.
The former credit union CEO also may go by the aliases, “Michael R. Hess, Rudy Hess or Richard Spirikaitis,” according to law enforcement authorities.
The FBI search for Spirikaitis began on the evening of July 16 when local police thought they were in a standoff after arriving at his Solon home to arrest him at around 8 p.m. However, when authorities entered the home the next morning, he was not there.
Anderson said when police approached the home that evening, Spirikaitis’ relatives gave every indication he was inside.
“Family members left the house with us and we thought, from the information we gathered, that he was not going to willingly come out,” she said.
For safety’s sake for the residential neighborhood, Anderson said authorities waited until daybreak for tactical teams to move in. Additionally, Anderson said, the said the size of the large home played a part in the decision to wait until daylight before entering.
(Authorities said this photo was taken from Spirikaitis' driver's license.)
The official charge the FBI has brought against Spirikaitis, making false credit institution entries, is an unusual one. Anderson said the charge falls under the embezzlement category, and because it is one that could be quickly proven, FBI officials utilized the charge so authorities could quickly execute an arrest warrant.
Still, Anderson said authorities did not expect Spirikaitis to pose a flight risk.
Next Page: Did He Act Alone?
The FBI agent also said Spirikaitis may have not acted alone.
“This is a very early on investigation, so we have a lot more work to do,” she said. “If people have information about Mr. Spirikaitis and his whereabouts, but also about any dealings that occurred [at the credit union], and wish to come in and talk about it, we’re more than open to that.”
The drama followed the July 12 liquidation of the $23.6 million credit union, which was seized by the Ohio Department of Financial Institutions and handed over to the NCUA after determining the 1,154-member cooperative was insolvent and had no prospect for restoring viable operations.
Fraud was suspected after a review of the credit union’s financial performance reports posted on the NCUA’s website revealed 10.31% net worth, 0.78% delinquencies, no charge-offs and 0.42% ROA as of March 31. One abnormal financial statistic was cost of funds, which at 0.87% was much higher than the peer average of 0.36%.
While the failed credit union’s website revealed it was paying above-average dividends to members, 0.01% to 0.10% APY for checking, 0.15% APY for savings and as much as 0.40% APY on a $25,000 or larger certificate, the amounts did not justify the cost of funds.
And, liquidity was not an issue, indicating the credit union did not have outstanding borrowings that were driving up cost of funds. The credit union’s loan-to-share ratio as of March 31 was less than 35%, far below peer averages.
Taupa Lithuanian did report a considerable amount of cash on its books, more than $15 million as of March 31, with just $729,595 in investments. Total loans were $7.4 million during that period.
The standoff, widely reported by local Cleveland news outlets, did not appear to trigger a run on deposits. A Credit Union Times correspondent visited the credit union’s headquarters July 17 and encountered an armed security guard standing behind a glass door of the office, housed in a non-descript brick building on Cleveland’s east side.
The guard said the credit union had been closed. He was handing out single-page informational leaflets to members.