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Seven agree to plead guilty in St. Paul Croatian fraud case
CLEVELAND (1/4/12)--More defendants have changed their pleas to guilty against bank fraud and money laundering charges related to St. Paul Croatian FCU, the East Lake, Ohio, credit union that collapsed in April 2010 in the largest credit union failure in history.

That brings the total to seven defendants of the nine indicted in March who have made plea bargains in the case. Their sentences are being delayed until after the trial of a central figure in the case, Koljo Nikolovski, 49,  an Eastlake, Ohio,  resident who also maintains a residence in Skopje, Macedonia.

Nikolovski was indicted on Jan. 5, 2011, for allegedly obtaining $2.5 million in fraudulent loans and placing the money in a personal bank account before wiring about $2.3 million to a bank in Skopje (Cleveland Plain Dealer Jan. 5, 2011, and News Now Jan. 13, 2011).

The Plain Dealer reported that Nikolovski was not eligible for the loan because he had previously defaulted on loans totaling more than $1 million.  He is charged with numerous counts of bank fraud, money laundering, financial institution fraud, and giving commissions or gifts for procuring loans.

Changing their pleas to guilty  were:

  • Rose Ann Nikolovski, ex-wife of Koljo's Nikolovski, who is charged with financial institution fraud and money laundering. Her sentencing hearing was set for March 6.
  • Anthony Raguz, former CEO of the defunct credit union, who is charged with bank fraud, bank bribery, and money laundering.  He pleaded guilty to issuing more than 1,000 fraudulent loans to more than 300 account holders from 2000 to April 2010, according to the Justice Department documents (loansafe.org Sept. 28). His sentencing was reset for Feb. 24, according to the court docket records. It was originally scheduled for tomorrow.
  • Jon Cendol Jr., brother of Rose Ann Nikolovski, charged with financial institutions fraud and scheduled for sentencing Feb. 22.
  • Ruth Cendol, charged with financial institutions fraud and scheduled for sentencing Feb. 22.
  • Daniel Kocher, charged with financial institutions fraud and to be sentenced March 6.
  • Edward Watral, charged with financial institutions fraud and to be sentenced Feb. 24.
  • Jennifer Cerjan, charged with financial institutions fraud and to be sentenced March 5.
Nikolovski's trial is set to begin Feb. 13 before U.S. District Judge Christopher A. Boyko in the U.S. District Court in Cleveland, according to court documents.

St. Paul Croatian FCU was placed into conservatorship on April 23, 2010 and closed the following  May 1. It held $238.8 million in funds from 5,400 members when it collapsed  (News Now May 4, 2010) and caused the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund about $170 million in losses.


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