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Former credit union exec gets 18 months for embezzling

A former top executive of the Winthrop-University Hospital Employees Federal Credit Union was sentenced Friday to 18 months in prison for embezzling $465,000 from the organization to fund what federal prosecutors called a “lavish lifestyle,“ according to officials. 

Suzanne Silva, 36, of Carle Place, who pleaded guilty to a single count of embezzling from a federally insured credit union, was also sentenced to 3 years' supervised release, ordered to make restitution of the $465,000, and be placed in a mental health treatment program after she serves her sentence.

In imposing sentence, however, U.S. District Judge Denis Hurley noted it was unlikely that Silva would be able to repay more than a fraction of the money she embezzled because she had no resources now. Silva, who made $56,000 annually in her position, was represented by a federal public defender as a person unable to afford an attorney.

Before she was sentenced, Silva broke down in tears and was only able to say: “I want to apologize” and a few other words that were not clear, before saying she could not go on.

Silva’s attorney, Tracey Gaffey, said her client deeply regretted what she had done and had otherwise led an exemplary life. Gaffey said her client now had nothing to show for her actions: “No … home, no car, no bank account.”  

“For years, Silva plundered the credit union, abusing her position as its Chief Operating Officer to commit serious crimes — all to serve herself,” Richard Donoghue, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said in a statement. “For the next 18 months, she will pay the price for her greed.”

Federal prosecutors have said that between 2011 and 2018, Silva transferred the money from the credit union’s operating account to accounts in her name and the names of family members at the credit union, as well as at credit cards in her name at other financial institutions. 

The prosecutors said Silva used the embezzled money to take Caribbean cruises and traveled to Cancun, and also for purchases from Amazon and Etsy.

Silva was the No. 2 executive at the credit union, acting as chief operating officer, and in charge of day-to-day operations, Eastern District Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles Kelly said in court.

The credit union is a separate business entity sponsored by NYU Winthrop  Hospital. Silva was suspended by the credit union and resigned from it after she was indicted in September last year.

“Forensic accountants who were brought in to investigate the misappropriation of funds concluded that no employee funds were affected and that the monies that were taken came exclusively from credit union assets,” a hospital spokesman, J. Edmund Keating, has said. “The federal credit union is insured and bonded, and the embezzlement did not adversely impact the credit union’s operations nor any members assets.” 

Defense attorney Gaffey declined to comment afterward, as did prosecutor Kelly.

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