Member Charged in Taupa Lithuanian Fraud Case
A third person was charged Monday with embezzling $2.5 million in a massive fraud case that led to the collapse of the Taupa Lithuanian Credit Union in Cleveland in July.
Federal prosecutors charged John Struna, 51, of the Cleveland suburb of Concord Township, with one count of conspiracy to commit theft or embezzlement from a credit union.
Struna, who had personal and business accounts at Taupa Lithuanian, conspired with former CEO Alex Spirikaitis to overdraw Struna’s accounts by $2.5 million, according to the federal prosecutors.
Spirikaitis made approximately 38 false and fraudulent wire transfers into Struna’s accounts between 2007 and 2013, federal prosecutors charge.
For example, Struna requested and received $112,105 from Spirikaitis in 2011 to buy a Fort Myers, Fla. condominium. In 2012, he requested and received approximately $100,000 for an investment opportunity, federal prosecutors allege.
What’s more, Struna never submitted any credit applications or loan documents to secure these loans and repaid the cooperative only $15,000.
Struna called Spirikaitis about twice a month and requested Spirikaitis’ approval to withdraw additional funds, said federal prosecutors. The former CEO made multiple transfers from Taupa’s internal accounts to cover the overdrafts.
“John Struna willfully overdrew his credit union accounts to the tune of $2.5 million through his relationship with a corrupt executive at the credit union,” said Stephen D. Anthony special agent in charge of the FBI office in Cleveland. “The FBI will continue efforts to make sure all the individuals responsible for the collapse of the Taupa Lithuanian Credit Union are held accountable.”
Federal prosecutors said in December that they expected to charge six other people after former teller Michael Ruksenas pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Cleveland to conspiring to embezzle more than $481,000 from the failed credit union.
As part of a plea deal, Ruksenas agreed to cooperate with and testify for federal prosecutors.
About $10 million to $16 million may have been embezzled from the Cleveland cooperative, which would make it one of the largest credit union fraud cases ever.
Ruksenas, 33, conspired with Spirikaitis and “others known or unknown,” according to court documents.
Spirikaitis, who was charged with making false statements about the credit union's finances in October and is in federal custody, appears to be cooperating with federal prosecutors as well.
Ruksenas, who was the second person to be charged an embezzlement charge, was conspiring with Spirikaitis to steal credit union money for years and up to just one month before state and federal regulators shuttered the credit union, according to court documents.
When Ruksenas started working as a teller at Taupa Lithuanian CU 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, court documents show.
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 the overdrafts, according to court documents.
The NCUA and the Ohio Department of Commerce took possession of Taupa Lithuanian CU last July and placed it into receivership due to its insolvency. Taupa had about 1,150 members and assets of approximately $24 million, according to court records.