A former teller has been charged in a $480,000 embezzlement conspiracy that allegedly contributed to the collapse of the $23.6 million Taupa Lithuanian Credit Union in July, federal prosecutors in Cleveland said Wednesday.
Michael Ruksenas, 33, of Naples, Fla., was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit theft or embezzlement from a credit union, according to a joint statement released Wednesday by U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio Steven M. Dettelbach and FBI Special Agent in Charge Stephen D. Anthony, both in Cleveland.
“This defendant is part of a group that took advantage of the trust of hundreds of people for their own personal gain,” Dettelbach said.
From 2007 through this year, Ruksenas, Alex Spirikaitis, the former president/CEO of Taupa Lithuanian CU, and others allegedly engaged in a conspiracy to commit theft or embezzlement from the credit union, according to federal authorities.
Spirikaitis had been a fugitive since July until he was nabbed by federal agents while walking on a sidewalk on Cleveland’s east side on Oct. 21. He has been charged with making false statements about the credit union’s finances and is in federal custody.
Court documents revealed that more than $10 million may have been embezzled from the credit union, which would make it one of the largest fraud cases in credit union history.
Because Spirikaitis waived his right to a preliminary hearing on Oct. 22 in U.S. District Court in Cleveland, his case was bound over to the federal grand jury for an indictment. The grand jury has a Dec. 20 deadline to return an indictment against him.
While Ruksenas worked as a teller from 1999 through 2006 at the cooperative, Spirikaitis routinely reviewed the daily share draft report. He circled the names of certain members listed on the report with NSF checks and instructed Ruksenas to pay the NSF checks Spirikaitis had circled, federal prosecutors allege.
After Ruksenas learned Spirikaitis honored overdrafts from certain accounts, he withdrew funds from his two accounts. Spirikaitis then transferred funds from Taupa directly into Ruksenas’ personal accounts to cover Ruksenas’ overdrafts, federal authorities said in a prepared statement.
In their statement, however, federal authorities indicated Spirikaitis has not been charged with any criminal offense related to the Ruksenas charge.
What’s more, Ruksenas worked as a home health aide for one of Spirikaitis’ relatives from 2007 through 2009. During that time, Spirikaitis allegedly used credit union funds to purchase Ruksenas a Jeep Cherokee, according to federal authorities.
“Michael Ruksenas is accused of being a willful beneficiary of a financial scam being committed on members of the Taupa Lithuanian Credit Union,” Anthony said. “The FBI will continue efforts to see that fraudsters such as Mr. Ruksenas are brought to justice.”
On Monday, U.S District Court Judge John R. Adams in Akron, Ohio approved a final forfeiture order that allows the federal government to sell a million-dollar home built by Spirikaitis. Funds from the sale of the home will be distributed to NCUA.
Federal authorities suspect the house was built with money embezzled from the credit union as Spirikaitis was earning only $50,000 annually, according to court papers.
An FBI investigation found that Spirikaitis received a December 2011 bank statement that showed a total of $559,468 in Taupa's accounts at the $4.5 billion Corporate One Federal Credit Union in Columbus, Ohio.
However, Spirikaitis reported on the credit union's December 2011 NCUA Call Report $16,165,288 in assets at the corporate credit union. The affidavit also revealed Spirikaitis allegedly altered and modified Corporate One FCU bank account statements for examiners.
“He printed out numbers he wanted to report to auditors and (to) NCUA and taped them over the real numbers from the true Corporate One bank account statement,” the affidavit stated. “Spirikaitis then photocopied the altered documents resulting in a document that mimicked the appearance of a statement coming directly from Corporate One.”
Court documents also revealed that NCUA authorities discovered 10,000 rounds of ammunition and multiple semi-automatic weapons in the credit union's storage room in July when they seized the institution.
What remains a mystery is why Spirikaitis kept these weapons and ammunition in the credit union. Federal prosecutors and the FBI declined to comment on Spirikaitis' intent.