A former San Diego resident has pleaded guilty to covering up a bank fraud scheme for nearly five years, according to U.S. Attorney Laura E. Duffy.
On Thursday, Laura Ortuondo, 33, admitted to one count of making false statements to federal agents as part of a plan to defraud La Jolla Bank of $1.8 million.
In 2008, Ortuondo worked as an assistant for small business owner Annand Sliuman.
Prosecutors said Ortuondo helped Sliuman get a $1.8 million loan from La Jolla Bank in May 2008 by submitting two fraudulent tax forms to the bank.
The false records made it look as though Sliuman was eligible for the Small Business Administration (SBA) loan, which he obtained.
Court records say Ortuondo spent the next five years thwarting a federal investigation into the fraud.
According to Duffy, the cover-up started in Oct. 2008 when Ortuondo lied to investigators, claiming she did not know she had submitted false documents.
She also helped Sliuman destroy her personal laptop to get rid of incriminating evidence, prosecutors said. Ortuondo then convinced her former husband to lie to federal agents and a federal grand jury for her, saying he had destroyed the laptop, prosecutors said.
Three years later during another interview with federal agents, Ortuondo maintained that she didn’t know about the fraud and that her ex-husband destroyed the laptop.
But her story changed on Thursday as she admitted to making false statements to the agents with the intent of obstructing the investigation, the U.S. attorney said.
“Fraudulent schemes like this undermine our country's economy and ultimately leave American taxpayers on the hook. The FBI will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to protect our precious tax dollars from waste, fraud and abuse,” said Daphne Hearn, the FBI special agent in charge at the San Diego field office.
Ortuondo faces a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine at her July 25 sentencing.
Sliuman has already pleaded guilty in a separate case to bribing a La Jolla Bank officer in exchange for loan approvals and has admitted to his role in the fraud and cover-up. He will be sentenced on Sept. 26 and faces up to 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine.
La Jolla Bank failed two years after giving out the fraudulent loan. It was taken over by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation after the bank fell $1 billion in debt.