MADISON, Wis. (7/10/09)--Credit unions experienced a rash of insiders accused or convicted of embezzlement schemes this week. Four incidents involved a manager of a defunct credit union, a branch manager who also is a pastor, a loan officer and a clerk. The amounts taken totaled nearly $1.7 million. The four incidents involved:
* Tampa, Fla.-based Suncoast Schools FCU loan officer/branch manager and pastor Donnell Dewitt Williams, who, along with three church members, was charged with grand theft, identity theft and money laundering. Authorities said he doled out more than $400,000 in fraudulent loans to family, friends and parishioners, and kept $50,000 for himself. Three parishioners acted as recruiters for the scam by encouraging church members or relatives in need to take out a small loan. The ring would "help" the borrowers with the application by falsifying information to get the loan approval. Of 400 accounts examined, 120 were fraudulent, said the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office economic crimes unit. (St. Petersburg Times July 8). * Marlene Aguilera Pena, former manager of the now-defunct Marian Miami FCU in Miami, Ariz., who was indicted on 25 counts of embezzlement by an employee of a lending, credit or financial institution. The U.S. Attorney's Office in Phoenix said Pena embezzled $1.18 million between 2001 and July 2006 by creating more than 140 fictitious loans and fraudulently issuing checks to family members and friends. She had worked for the credit union since 1994 and became its manager in 2000. The embezzlement led to the collapse of the credit union, said authorities (The Associated Press via Charleston Daily Mail July 8). * Angelica Sagote, 21, a former clerk at Pacific Postal CU, who was sentenced to three years and 10 months in prison for her part in a robbery that netted more than $76,000. She provided inside information to her uncle, Sefo Sagote, and Elisara Taito after she was fired from the credit union over money missing from her cash drawer. The two men attempted to rob the credit union on Aug. 4 but fled with purses of two customers before completing the robbery. Two days later, the pair robbed the credit union of $76,000, with Angelica Sagote acting as the getaway car driver. Police recovered $32,000 when they made the arrests ( San Francisco Chronicle and Associated Press Newswires July 8). * Crystal Smith, a former loan officer at Bluegrass Community CU, Ashland, Ky., who was sentenced to 57 months in prison by U.S. District Court Judge David L. Bunning for credit union fraud, bank fraud and aggravated identity theft. Smith admitted using her position as loan officer to create fraudulent loans over 18 months beginning October 2006 by using other people's Social Security numbers. More than $165,000 was embezzled (Targeted News Service< July 7).