Fairhill man pleads guilty to stealing from credit union

Posted: September 06, 2012

A FAIRHILL MAN admitted in federal court on Tuesday to embezzling $2.3 million between June 2006 and June 2011 from a now-defunct federal credit union that served low-income Hispanics in North Philadelphia.

Ignacio Morales, 49, also pleaded guilty to cashing bogus tax-refund checks, making false reports and filing false tax returns.

U.S. District Judge R. Barclay Surrick set sentencing for Dec. 7.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Arlene Fisk said that Morales, a former manager of Borinquen Federal Credit Union, stole $600,000 in 2008 and 2009 to buy real estate and took $560,000 in an attempt to buy 15 kilos of cocaine. He also failed to deposit $700,000 into a Borinquen account, she said.

If convicted of the drug-related charge, he faces a mandatory-minimum 10 years in prison.

But defense attorney Nicholas Harbist said that he would ask Surrick to apply a law that allows courts to give first-time, low-level and nonviolent drug offenders less than the mandatory minimum.

Harbist also said that Morales cooperated fully with the feds. Fisk did not say whether the government would seek leniency for Morales at sentencing.

Federal regulators shut down Borinquen in July 2011 - one month after seizing it - and paid all members the money remaining in their accounts. The plea memo said regulators estimated that $5 million was missing when they seized it.

Contact Michael Hinkelman at hinkelm@phillynews.com or 215-854-2656. Follow him on Twitter @MHinkelman.

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