Former Loan Officer Admits $370K Theft
In the latest case of a small credit union slammed by embezzlement, a former employee of the $26 million Middle Tennessee Federal Credit Union pleaded guilty to pilfering more than $370,000.
Latisha Cochran, 36, admitted that she stole the funds from the Cookeville, Tenn.-based institution from 2007 to 2013 by issuing fraudulent loans in the names of several fictitious individuals, according to court documents. She listed loan collateral, including a boat, motorcycle and trailer, which did not exist.
The elaborate loan scheme lasted about six years, according to a press release from David Rivera, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee.
As part of a plea agreement, Cochran agreed to make full restitution to the credit union, the court said. She faces up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $1,000,000, and is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 12, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
In addition to the fake loans, Cochran confessed to issuing credit cards under fictitious names and using them for personal purchases, the court documents said.
She admitted to concealing her embezzlement by opening accounts in fictitious names, using fictitious addresses, fabricating loan documentation, conducting transactions outside of normal business hours, making loan payments using embezzled funds and shredding loan files, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
Cochran confessed she used the stolen funds to buy a boat and made payments to her personal vehicle, mortgage and student loans, the court documents said.
The court documents do not state how the crime was eventually detected.
Poor oversight is often the blame for internal fraud, according to industry experts and law enforcement officials, but credit unions can do many things to deter and detect dishonest employees in order to minimize loss to the NCUSIF.
Cochran apparently created and maintained a Wordpress blog named lcochran2accounting, which discussed the benefits of credit union membership.
“One of the things offered by credit unions is flexibility,” she stated in a Nov. 25 post. “Credit unions are ready to give loans to all people regardless of their financial status, unlike banks who deny people loans especially those with low income or troubled financial past. The other thing is lesser difficulties. The terms to follow on credit unions are easy unless banks that have many provisions and rules.”
The blog included Cochran’s resume, which claimed she was “highly creative, recognized as a results-oriented and solution-focused individual.”
The resume also stated that Cochran began working at Middle Tennessee FCU in 2002 as a member services representative and junior loan officer, and that she was promoted to senior loan officer in 2005.
Cochran was also a student at Tennessee Technology University with a 3.325 GPA and was working on degrees in accounting and law, the resume said.