Spirikaitis Gets 10 Years: Exclusive Onsite Coverage
CLEVELAND — Alex R. Spirikaitis, the central figure of the $15 million fraud scheme that led to the collapse of the Taupa Lithuanian Credit Union, was sentenced to 130 months in federal prison Monday by U.S. District Court James S. Gwin in Cleveland.
Gwin also ordered the former cooperative president/CEO to pay $15 million in restitution to the NCUA even though Spirikaitis personally embezzled approximately $4.2 million.
Gwin said Spirikaitis facilitated the theft by enabling co-conspirators to steal $15 million from a credit union that had only $23.6 million in assets. The NCUA and the Ohio Department of Commerce took possession of Taupa Lithuanian in July 2013 and placed it into receivership because of insolvency. The Cleveland cooperative served about 1,150 members.
Spirikaitis apologized for his actions. His lawyer, Darin Thompson, requested a lighter sentence because his client has two special needs children, one of whom is severely disabled. Thompson indicated putting his client in prison for a long time would put a huge burden on his ex-wife and their children who will need to be cared for over their entire lives.
“It’s a fairly sad day when an individual uses the impairments of their children and their wife to benefit themselves,” Gwin said. “He knew going into this (fraud scheme) that he had kids with special needs. You had a credit union with $24 million in assets and he stole $15 million. He knew it was going to be discovered.”
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.
The fraud case caused a $33.5 million loss to NCUSIF, according to the NCUA Office of Inspector General’s material loss report.
Spirikaitis also amassed an arsenal of semi-automatic weapons and more than 10,000 rounds of ammunition that he stored at the cooperative’s office in Cleveland.
The weapons were discovered by Cynthia Hentersteiner, an NCUA supervisor examiner, on July 12, according to a Cleveland Police report obtained by CU Times. This incident prompted the NCUA to establish a new office focused solely on agency security and continuity last November.
Police confiscated a Thompson replica machine gun, five rifles, including a semi-automatic Browning, and 45 caliber pistol. About 10 boxes filled with thousands of rounds of ammunition, including gun cartridges and magazines, and sniper bullets, were also confiscated by police.
Hentersteiner reported to police that Spirikaitis was missing and was last seen at work on July 10.
On the evening of July 16, the FBI began searching for Spirikaitis after local police thought they were in a standoff after arriving at his home in the Cleveland suburb of Solon to arrest him. When authorities entered the home the next morning, he was not there.
For three months, Spirikaitis was an FBI fugitive. He was captured Oct. 21.