Alex R. Spirikaitis now faces up to 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine when he is sentenced for his lead role in one of the largest fraud cases in credit union history.
Spirikaitis, who conspired with three former employees and three members to embezzle $15 million from the Taupa Lithuanian Credit Union over 17 years, pleaded guilty Feb. 3 in U.S. District Court in Cleveland to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud.
The 51-year-old former president/CEO could be sentenced to 30 years in federal prison and a $1 million fine. His sentencing hearing will be held May 9.
Also on facing a May 9 sentencing date is former bookkeeper, Vytas Apanavicius, 44, of Mentor, an eastern Cleveland suburb, who also pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit embezzlement at a Feb. 3 court appearance.
Apanavicius owned VPA Accounting Inc., through which he provided bookkeeping and accounting services from 1995 through 2013. He is accused of stealing nearly a million dollars from Taupa Lithuanian, with help from Spirikaitis.
Spirikaitis admitted to personally embezzling about $4.2 million from Taupa Lithuanian CU between 2001 and 2013. With those stolen funds, he built a $1.6 million home in an affluent Cleveland suburb, paid for a stadium luxury suite at Cleveland Browns games and bought nine vehicles.
Spirikaitis also used embezzled credit union funds to amass an arsenal of semi-automatic weapons and more than 10,000 rounds of ammunition that he stored at the cooperative's office in Cleveland.
Sometime after Spirikaitis was hired at the cooperative's president/CEO in 1995, he began to conspire with three former employees and members to embezzle millions and managed to conceal that theft from auditors, the board of directors and members.
For 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. Additionally, Spirikaitis did not make deposits to cover the overdrafts in his own accounts.
The former CEO transferred funds from other Taupa Lithuanian CU internal accounts to cover the overdrafts. In many cases, these overdrafts amounted to tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Spirikaitis initially concealed the embezzlement scheme by simply taping over Taupa's financial statements with false information, which he provided to auditors. Court documents also show he later used a software program to manipulate and print financial statements.
Federal prosecutors also unveiled that Spirikaitis provided Taupa's correspondent bank, Corporate One Federal Credit Union in Columbus, Ohio, with an incorrect ZIP code for Taupa's auditors, which caused the original account statements from the correspondent bank to be mailed to a post office box in Cleveland Spirikaitis controlled, allowing him to alter the statements.
Two other individuals, 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 face charges in the coming days or weeks. They have been identified 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.
The NCUA and the Ohio Department of Commerce took possession of Taupa Lithuanian CU and placed it into receivership due to its insolvency last July, triggering a FBI manhunt for Spirikaitis.
On the evening of July 16, the FBI and local police surrounded the million-dollar Spirikaitis had built in the suburban Solon, Ohio, to arrest him on fraud charges.
For safety reasons, authorities waited until daybreak to approach the home but found that Spirikaitis had fled. For the next three months, Spirikaitis was on the run. The FBI issued a public warning that the former CEO could be armed, dangerous and suicidal.
After Spirikaitis was nabbed by FBI agents in October while he was walking along a sidewalk in Cleveland's east side Collinwood neighborhood, it was revealed that NCUA auditors had found 10,000 rounds of ammunition and multiple semi-automatic weapons in a storage room at the credit union.
Authorities said Spirikaitis apparently knew the FBI was on his tail and was preparing to escape with a go bag packed with blank identification cards, cash cards and other personal hygiene items, which were also found in his office by NCUA auditors.