LITTLE FALLS, Minn. — A former Little Falls credit union CEO has been sentenced to 96 months in prison for orchestrating a multimillion-dollar credit union fraud scheme.
Margurite Mary Cofell, 62, Little Falls, pleaded guilty on April 3 to one count of credit union fraud and was sentenced Tuesday, Dec. 3, in U.S. District Court in St. Paul, U.S. Attorney Erica H. MacDonald said in a news release Thursday.
According to Cofell’s guilty plea and documents filed in court, from at least June 2006 through January 2014, Cofell was the manager, chief operating officer and/or president of the St. Francis Campus Credit Union in Little Falls. In that capacity, Cofell was responsible for the oversight of the daily operations of the credit union and ensuring proper documentation of the credit union transactions.
Cofell used her access and position to fraudulently divert credit union funds to herself and other members of the credit union, including family members, friends and businesses in the Little Falls and Flensburg area. Cofell did so by authorizing fictitious loans or increasing the balances on existing, legitimate loans without the knowledge or authorization of the borrowers, issuing checks from the credit union despite the absence of any corresponding deposits into the credit union, making fictitious electronic deposits into the accounts of credit union members that they did not contribute but later withdrew from the credit union, including an account held in her name, and accounts in the names of various family members and friends, taking cash from the tellers’ cash drawers and the credit union’s vault, and recording fictitious cash payments on loans held by family members.
In total, Cofell caused a loss amount of $2,513,360 to the St. Francis Campus Credit Union. As a result of Cofell’s fraud, the St. Francis Campus Credit Union, which had served the Little Falls community for more than 50 years, was placed into liquidation due to insolvency.
Before the Little Falls credit union was shut down, it had 3,400 members. The NCUA reported the members had assets of about $51 million. Members of the credit union were transferred to the Central Minnesota Credit Union without an interruption of service. Central Minnesota, with 52,000 members, has a credit union in Little Falls as well as 15 other locations.
Chartered in 1963, St. Francis Campus Credit Union served employees of the St. Francis Campus, as owned by the Franciscan Sisters, their relatives and employees of the credit union, the National Credit Union Administration reported.
In addition to her prison term, Cofell was ordered to pay $2,513,360 in restitution and will serve five years on supervised release.
The case was investigated by the FBI.