Credit union supervisor pleads guilty to credit car thefts

Posted: Monday, March 10, 2003

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- A former supervisor for Alaskan Federal Credit has pleaded guilty to stealing more than a half-million dollars over six years.

Federal prosecutors say Carol A. Chavez, manager of the institution's credit car business, invented fictional credit card accounts and pocketed $517,627.27 by manipulating accounts.

The U.S. Attorney's Office charged Chavez, 45, last month with one count of bank fraud and one count of filing false tax returns.

''It worked out very nicely,'' assistant U.S. attorney Crandon Randell said. ''Until she got caught.''

Chavez agreed to plead guilty to both charges in return for the low end of the sentencing range, according to a plea agreement filed Feb. 27 in U.S. District Court. Prosecutors recommended that she spend 24 months and pay back the money.

Randell said he plans to transfer the case for the change of plea hearing and sentencing to New Mexico, where Chavez now lives. A sentencing date has not been set.

The credit union hired her in 1987 and she learned the Visa card program, the plea agreement says. Eventually, Chavez became a supervisor and the only person who understood the system.

In 1997, the credit union merged with Denali Federal Credit Union. Chavez was still the only person who knew how to maintain the system so officials left her in charge.

Starting around December 1995, she started inventing names, addresses and Social Security numbers for new accounts, the plea agreement said. If a statement was returned from a bogus address, Chavez, as supervisor of the system, cut it off and no one else knew.

Her attorney Richard Winterbottom, an assistant federal public defender in New Mexico, said she started stealing because she needed to support her invalid husband.

She stole the money by taking cash advances under the bogus accounts, taking cash with the fake cards at ATMs and getting cash advances on her personal account but recording them to a fake account, according to the plea agreement.

Chavez quit her job in June 2001, telling supervisors she wanted to be with her ailing mother in New Mexico.

She spent the money for food, vacations, two boats and a down payment on a recreational vehicle, Randell said.

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