Former President of Valdosta Credit Union Sentenced to Prison for Multimillion-Dollar Fraud Scheme

Former President of Valdosta Credit Union Sentenced to Prison for Multimillion-Dollar Fraud Scheme

Former President of Southern Pine Credit Union (SPCU), Leah Lehman, 63, of Valdosta, Georgia, has been sentenced to serve four years in prison and ordered to pay back almost $4.5 million in restitution after her involvement in a long-running multimillion-dollar bank loan and aggravated identity theft scheme. This sentencing comes after Lehman admitted to her crimes, pleading guilty to one count of bank fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft on October 26, 2023.

Lehman’s co-defendant, Teresa Paulo, also of Valdosta, pleaded guilty to the same charges on November 2, 2023. Paulo’s sentencing is scheduled for July 11. She faces a maximum of 30 years in prison for bank fraud and a mandatory two-year prison term for aggravated identity theft, in addition to any other prison time imposed. Paulo will also be subject to a maximum of five years of supervised release and a $1,000,000 fine.

U.S. District Judge W. Louis Sands presided over Lehman’s case. Both defendants are ineligible for parole.

The scheme, as outlined in court documents, involved Lehman’s actions as President of SPCU from 1990 to 2020 and Paulo’s role as the credit union’s controller from October 2011 to June 2020. They were both authorized to originate all types of loans, file quarterly reports to the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), and had access to all SPCU employees’ usernames and passwords for its computers and software.

Lehman’s fraudulent activities began in June 2003 when she initiated a share secured loan in an SPCU account using a member’s name and social security number without their knowledge. She then paid off the loan and rebooked it multiple times with additional advances, diverting the proceeds for personal expenses, including a boat, a hunting club share, and gifts to family members. To conceal these actions, Lehman created false credit transactions using the names and passwords of SPCU employees.

Paulo followed a similar pattern, creating a share secured loan in a member’s account without their knowledge in October 2011. She continued to take out additional advances and loans from the account for personal spending purposes. Like Lehman, Paulo used false credit transactions to simulate loan payoff and defer payments, and debit entries to conceal her activities.

The FBI and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Office of Inspector General (FDIC OIG), conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Hannah Couch is prosecuting the case for the Government.

Leave a Reply