November 24, 2014

Medina
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Brunswick man convicted of taking millions from church credit bureau

A federal jury has convicted a 41-year-old Brunswick man accused of playing a major role in a scheme that bilked a church credit bureau of millions in loans.

Svetislav Vujovic was convicted of receiving more than $3 million from the St. Paul Croatian Federal Credit Union in exchange for cash payments to the credit union’s chief operating officer, according to a spokesperson for the U.S. attorney in Cleveland.

Vujovic is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 19.

Following a weeklong trial in U.S. District Court in Cleveland, a jury Wednesday convicted Vujovic on all 14 counts — 10 counts of making false statements to a federal credit union, two counts of money laundering, and one count each of financial institution fraud and giving gifts for procuring loans.

The credit union was closed and then liquidated in 2010 after sustaining losses of about $170 million, making it one of the largest credit union failures in American history.

Nearly 20 people have been convicted of crimes related to fraudulent lending that resulted in the credit union’s failure.

“The failure of the credit union was a tragedy for this community,” Steven M. Dettelbach, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, said. “We will make sure all those responsible for its failure will be held accountable.”

Vujovic could not be reached for comment Wednesday. The Associated Press reported phone messages seeking comment were left Wednesday for his attorney.

Stephen D. Anthony, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Cleveland Field Office, said, “The St. Paul Federal Credit Union collapse resulted in one of the largest credit union failures ever investigated in U.S. history.”

Vujovic, aided by Anthony Raguz, the former chief operating officer of Eastlake-based St. Paul Croatian Federal Credit Union, received numerous fraudulently obtained loans totaling approximately $3 million from the credit union between 2004 and 2008, according to court documents and trial testimony.

Vujovic obtained these loans by making false representations and promises, and he received many of those loans after having already defaulted on previous loans issued to him by the credit union.

The loans were obtained in the names of Cleveland Comfort Corp; SND Inc.; Balkan Contracting; GBRS Properties; and Balkan Enterprise Inc. The credit union lost approximately $3 million as a result of Vujovic’s fraudulent conduct.

Vujovic gave Raguz cash payments totaling about $20,000 to induce Raguz to facilitate the approval of the fraudulent loans to Vujovic, according to court documents and trial testimony.

Raguz is serving a 14-year federal prison sentence.

Contact David Knox at (330) 721-4065 or dknox@medina-gazette.com.