Four Now Charged as Details Unfold in Taupa Collapse
Federal prosecutors have pieced together a massive fraud scheme that siphoned $15 million over 17 years by three members, three employees and former President/CEO Alex R. Spirikaitis of the collapsed Taupa Lithuanian Credit Union in Cleveland.
Spirikaitis himself used embezzled credit union funds for a luxury suite at Cleveland Browns games, a $1.6 million home and an arsenal of semi-automatic weapons and more than 10,000 rounds of ammunition that he hid in the credit union’s office.
In court documents, federal prosecutors detail how the embezzlement was carried out and how Spirikaitis concealed the seven-person conspiracy ring from auditors, the board of directors and members for so many years.
Charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud, Spirikaitis faces up to 30 years in federal prison and a $1 million fine and is to be formally arraigned in February. Federal prosecutors also will likely seek $15 million or more in restitution from Spirikaitis and the six other conspirators.
A former bookkeeper, Vytas Apanavicius, 44, of Mentor, an eastern Cleveland suburb, a former teller, Michael Ruksenas, 33, of Naples, Fla., and credit union member John Struna, 51, of the Cleveland suburb of Concord Township, each have been charged with one count of conspiracy to commit embezzlement.
Three more people are expected to be charged soon. They 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. G.C. and P.B. were members and provided IT services to the cooperative from a company they jointly owned, show court documents.
Struna, who pleaded not guilty Jan. 24 in U.S. District Court in Cleveland, allegedly used some of the $2.5 million to buy a $112,000 condominium in Fort Myers, Fla., and $100,000 for a “silver investment opportunity” in South Carolina, court documents show.
Spirikaitis made approximately 38 false and fraudulent wire transfers into Struna’s accounts between 2007 and July 15, 2013, authorities said. He faces a trial set for March 10.
Apanavicius, who was charged just hours after Struna pleaded not guilty, allegedly embezzled nearly $1 million from 2001 to 2013.
The former Taupa Lithuanian CU bookkeeper allegedly conspired to make 72 fraudulent deposits and transfers of $962,689 into his accounts.
Federal prosecutors noted in court documents that in November 2011, Spirikaitis provided Apanavicius with $25,000 in embezzled funds to purchase a new Jeep Cherokee as part of a “friends and family discount.”
Ruksenas pleaded guilty in December to conspiring to embezzle more than $481,000 from the credit union and agreed to cooperate with and testify for federal prosecutors.
The embezzlement began in 1995 when Spirikaitis was hired as Taupa Lithuanian CU’s president/CEO and ended last July when federal and state regulators shuttered the cooperative and Spirikaitis went missing, arrested a few months later on a street in Cleveland.
During those years, the three employees and three members wrote checks against their accounts with the “understanding” that Spirikaitis would not require them to make deposits to cover these overdrafts.