CLEVELAND – The accountant for well-known developer A. Eddy Zai pleaded guilty yesterday to charges in connection with the massive fraud that siphoned tens of millions of dollars in phony loans from St. Paul Croatian FCU.
Zrino Jukic, 41, could receive up to three years in prison for his crimes, plus be required to pay more than $1 million in fines and $1 million in restitution, according to terms of a plea deal he struck with federal prosecutors.
U.S. District Judge John Adams will determine his punishment after Jukic fulfills his cooperation agreement with prosecutors and testifies against his co-defendants.
In February, Jukic was named in a 34-count bank fraud indictment involving Zai, who prosecutors say stole $16.7 million in fraudulent loans from the one-time $240 million credit union. Zai, 43, the former leader of the Cleveland International Fund, is one of 19 people charged in the biggest fraud ever among credit unions.
Jukic is accused of providing false information in 11 loan applications that resulted in $1.7 million in proceeds, which Jukic invested in some of Zai’s business ventures.
The credit union’s CEO, Anthony Raguz, paid $70 million in fraudulent loans to more than 300 credit union members. Raguz pleaded guilty to bank fraud, money laundering and bank bribery in October. He also is cooperating with prosecutors, and is expected to testify against Zai.
Zai was the single largest recipient of fraudulent loans, and contributed to the credit union’s collapse, according to Stephen Anthony, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Cleveland office. He is charged with conspiracy, bank fraud, bank bribery, money laundering, and making false statements to a bank and to law enforcement. Zai has denied the charges and pleaded not guilty.