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Seven more charged in St. Paul Croatian FCU collapse
CLEVELAND, Ohio (5/17/11)--Seven more people were charged last week with fraud that led to a $170 million loss for--and the eventual collapse of--Eastlake, Ohio-based St. Paul Croatian FCU. The indictments bring the number of people charged for fraud related to the credit union's liquidation to 16. Arben Alia, 34, of Eastlake, was charged with 11 counts of bank fraud, one count of bank bribery and five of money laundering for allegedly obtaining $4.5 million in loans from the credit union with assistance from the credit union's chief operating officer at the time, Anthony Raguz (US Fed News May 13). Raguz, 51, of Mentor, Ohio, is one of nine people indicted in March and accused of bank fraud for their roles in the credit union's collapse (News Now March 4). Alia's loans allegedly were made from 2006 through 2009 and funded gambling excursions and renovations to a bar and grill. The indictment also charged Alia with giving about $100,000 to Raguz in exchange for approving and facilitating the fraudulent loans for Alia, his friends and relatives. Charged last week with assisting Alia were:
* Ilir Marku, 34, Willowick, Ohio, three counts bank fraud and two counts money laundering; * Vaso Shani, 36, Eastlake, one count of bank fraud and two counts of money laundering; * Alban Sulkaj, 35, Clinton Township, Mich., one count each of bank fraud and money laundering; * Zoge Ahmetaj, 68, Eastlake, one count bank fraud, two counts money laundering; and * Qerim Ahmetaj, 74, Eastlake, one count each of bank fraud and money laundering.
In a related case last week, a seventh person--Skender Demiri, 36, North Ridgeville, Ohio--was charged with one count of financial institution fraud, one count of bribery in connection with the business dealings of a financial institution and one count of money laundering. The indictment said that from June 24, 2004, through March 2, 2010, Demiri, aided by Raguz, obtained several loans totaling $1.6 million from the credit union by making false representations and saying the loans were to start a business. The credit union lost the full $1.6 million on the deals. Demiri was also charged with providing $50,000 in checks and cash to Raguz for approving and facilitating the loan approvals, and with three counts of money laundering, including a September 2009 wire transfer to a bank account in Germany. In addition to Raguz, others charged in March include: Koljo Nikolovski, 48, Eastlake; Rose Ann Nikolovski, 48, Eastlake; Marko Nikoli, 33, Eastlake; John Cendol Jr., 48, Kirtland; Ruth Cendol, 55 of Kirtland; Daniel Kocher, 72, of Euclid; Edward Watral, 37, Creston; and Jennifer Cerjan, 33, Orrville (News Now March 4). The credit union was placed into conservatorship by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) April 23, 2010 and shuttered May 1, 2010. At the time of its closing it held $238.8 million in funds from 5,400 members. NCUA's Office of the Inspector General reported last year that fraudulent loans pushed the credit union into liquidation.


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