Former teller Michael Ruksenas, scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court in Cleveland on Dec. 2 to face a $481,502 conspiracy embezzlement charge, could be the first of more individuals fingered in the fraud that killed off the $23.6 million Taupa Lithuanian Credit Union in July.
Documents filed in U.S. District Court reveal more details about how Ruksenas conspired with the former president/CEO of Taupa Lithuanian CU, Alex Spirikaitis, and “others known or unknown,” as federal prosecutors described in court papers.
Steven Dettelbach, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, has said that Ruksensas is “part of a group that took advantage of the trust of hundreds of people for their own personal gain.”
Ruksenas and Spirikaitis were stealing funds from the credit union for years and up to just one month before state and federal regulators shuttered the credit union, federal prosecutors allege.
In 2007 and 2008 Spirikaitis fraudulently transferred about $200,000 into Ruksenas’ Taupa accounts. Starting in early 2009, Spirikaitis transferred about $4,000 twice a month in to Ruksenas accounts, according to court documents.
What’s more, Ruksenas requested Spirikaitis increase the amount of monthly transfers from $8,000 to $9,000 a month, so “Ruksenas could show his family members that he was a successful employee,” court records show.
While Spirikaitis obliged Ruksenas’ request for that $1,000 a month increase, Ruksenas told others that the money deposited into his Taupa accounts were legitimate payments from his employer.
Court documents also show Spirkaitis transferred $9,000 to Ruksensas’ account on June 13, exactly one month before state authorities and the NCUA moved in to liquidate the Cleveland credit union on July 13.
Because Ruksenas earlier waived his right to prosecution by indictment and consented to prosecution by an information document that details conspiracy embezzlement, it implies that he is cooperating with federal authorities, said FBI Special Agent Vicki D. Anderson.
What’s more, Spirikaitis, who has been charged with making false statements about the credit union’s finances and is in federal custody, appears to be cooperating with federal prosecutors as well.
The federal grand jury had a Nov. 20 deadline to return an indictment against Spirikaitis. But at the request of Spirkaitis lawyer, Darin Thompson of Cleveland, the deadline was extended to Dec. 20 to give them more time to “fully explore pre-indictment negotiations with the government.”
Court documents have 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.
When Ruksenas started working as a teller at Taupa Lithuanian in 1999, 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, Ruksenas began withdrawing funds from his two accounts even though he didn’t maintain sufficient balances to cover the withdrawals. Spirikaitis then transferred funds from Taupa directly into Ruksenas’ personal accounts to cover Ruksenas’ overdrafts, federal prosecutors said.
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Court documents also show 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 buy Ruksenas a Jeep Cherokee.
A final forfeiture order also was approved by a federal court judge earlier this month 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 the NCUA, among others.
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.