Credit union workers accused of fraud, theft

2014-06-27T00:00:00Z 2014-06-27T09:12:34Z Credit union workers accused of fraud, theftBy Patrick McNamara Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

A former bank employee has been indicted in federal court, accused of taking tens of thousands of dollars in cash and unauthorized loans from customer accounts.

A second employee was indicted for helping in a cover up.

Connie Ortiz and Jessica Vidal face charges of bank fraud, aggravated identity theft and accessory after the fact for their alleged actions while employed at Pima Federal Credit Union.

A federal indictment filed on June 18 in U.S. District Court in Tucson lays most the blame on Vidal, who’s accused of illegally withdrawing more than $23,000 in cash from at least five Pima Federal Credit Union members’ accounts. She also is accused of obtaining fraudulent loans totaling more than $54,000 by using the names and Social Security numbers of credit union members.

Court documents say beginning in 2010 Vidal, who worked as a member service representative, told tellers that members had asked her to make cash withdrawals on their behalf.

She’s accused of making withdrawals at least seven times between July 2010 and July 2013.

The indictment says no such customer requests were made.

In one instance, Vidal is accused of using a credit union member’s name and account number to receive a $3,500 advance on the customer’s line of credit.

Federal prosecutors say after the customer complained to the credit union Ortiz then helped conceal the illegal advance by making an unauthorized withdrawal from another customer’s account to replace the money taken from the complaining member.

Vidal later wrote to the credit union member who complained saying the line of credit balance had been corrected.

The indictment does not name the account holders.

The U.S. Attorney accuses Vidal of using the loan funds to buy a pickup truck and other personal items. Other alleged unauthorized loans were used to restore the balances of members’ accounts that Vidal had taken cash from, they charge.

Federal authorities say Vidal tried to hide the illegal loans and cash withdrawals by altering account holders’ personal information, such as mailing addresses and other contact information, to prevent them from receiving monthly statements and had customer accounts flagged to prevent mail from being sent.

She was fired from the credit union in July 2013.

A representative from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona declined to comment on the case.

Vidal faces seven counts of aggravated identity theft and 14 counts of bank fraud.

The indictment accuses Ortiz of helping cover up the incidents after the fact.

In one instance, Ortiz is accused of withdrawing money from one customer’s account to repay the funds taken from another account. The indictment says Ortiz took the action at Vidal’s prompting two days after Vidal was fired.

In another, the indictment accuses Ortiz of liquidating one of the fraudulent accounts prosecutors say Vidal created to secure a loan. Prosecutors say Ortiz removed the money from the account in an effort to cancel the loan and prevent authorities from learning of the account.

Ortiz faces two counts of accessory after the fact.

The Star was unable to contact either defendant for comment, and court documents do not indicate if either has hired an attorney. A phone message left for Pima Federal Credit Union’s president and CEO was not returned Thursday.

Arraignment hearings for Vidal and Ortiz are scheduled for July 3 in U.S. District Court in Tucson.

Contact reporter Patrick McNamara at 573-4241 or pmcnamara@azstarnet.com. On Twitter @pm929.

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