Valdosta, GA

Two bank employees plead guilty to multi-million dollar fraud and identity theft scheme

The Bullet Point

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Valdosta, Georgia - Two former executives of the Southern Pine Credit Union confessed to their roles in a bank fraud and identity theft operation that spanned years. Teresa Paulo, from Valdosta, admitted guilt for one count of bank fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft. Leah Lehman, 63, also of Valdosta, pleaded guilty to similar charges on October 26.

Key Points

  • Lehman served as President from 1990 to 2020, and Paulo as Controller from 2011 to 2020, of Southern Pine Credit Union (SPCU) in Valdosta. SPCU members are employees of the local paper mill and their families.
  • Both had the authority to originate all types of loans, file reports to the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), and access SPCU employees' usernames and passwords.
  • Lehman's fraud began in June 2003, creating a loan under a member's name without consent, and repeatedly rebooking it for personal gains until May 31, 2020.
  • She used fraudulent methods to conceal these activities, including false credit transactions under other employees' names.
  • Lehman defrauded the Credit Union of approximately $4.5 million, issuing loans in her husband and son's names for personal use.
  • Similarly, Paulo initiated fraudulent activities in October 2011, creating loans under members' names without consent and using proceeds for personal spending.
  • Paulo's fraud involved transferring loan proceeds into joint accounts and creating false credit transactions for concealment.
  • The total fraudulent amount by Paulo reached $1,233,201.77 by May 31, 2020, with only $7,736.16 in legitimate payments.
  • Both women face up to 30 years in prison for bank fraud, and a mandatory additional two years for aggravated identity theft, followed by up to five years of supervised release and a possible fine of $1,000,000.
  • Lehman's sentencing is set for February 28, 2024; Paulo's sentencing date is pending. Neither defendant is eligible for parole.

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