Janesville woman: Fraud driven by want

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Tuesday, August 2, 2011
— A woman accused of taking out more than $600,000 in loans in other people’s names told investigators she had “champagne taste on a beer budget,” according to a criminal complaint issued Monday

Laura A. Powers, 50, of 3424 Kingsbridge Drive, Janesville, said she used the money to buy boats, ATVs, jewelry, property and other items, the complaint states.

Powers is accused of using her position as a loan officer at Parker Community Credit Union to borrow the money by using other people’s identities.

Powers and her husband have personal loans amounting to between $700,000 and $800,000, investigators believe.

Bank officials believe the Powerses would not have been able to keep up with payments on their loans using only their personal income, the complaint states.

Powers appeared briefly in Rock County Court on Monday. She appears to be cooperating with investigators. The criminal complaint states she gave a detective a list of potential victims.

A preliminary hearing—at which the prosecution will try to prove that evidence justifies a trial—is set for 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 23.

Powers was released Monday on a signature bond of $5,500. Court Commissioner Stephen Meyer told Powers she could have no contact with anyone named as a victim.

Powers is charged with one count of theft in a business setting and 10 counts of identity theft.

The maximum prison term on the first count is 10 years. She faces up to six years on each of the other counts.

Powers said she had been taking out loans in other people’s names for about 10 years, but the criminal complaint covers only the past two years.

Not all of those whose identities Powers allegedly used cooperated with investigators, the complaint states.

Powers took out loans totaling $633,180 during the past two years, according to the complaint.

Powers told investigators she began taking out loans in the names of family members, according to the complaint.

Then, “a few years ago, she started using credit union members’ information to obtain the fraudulent loans,” the complaint states. “She stated that no one else in the credit union knew what she was doing.”

Some of the people whose identities allegedly were stolen said they knew Powers or were her friends, but they did not give her permission to take out the loans.

One said he received a call from PCCU about a loan that he hadn’t taken out, so he called Powers, who told him it was a mistake and not to worry about it. Another man said he heard of a loan through an identity-theft shield program, but again, he called Powers who told him it was an “internal error” that would be corrected.

Some others told investigators they did not immediately discover the loans because they didn’t look closely at their bank statements.

Powers was fired in April.

The credit union has told customers it has strengthened its internal controls and is safe and strong. Officials also have said that none of the people whose names were used to take out the loans will lose any money.

Last updated: 6:13 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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