Liddles found guilty in AEA fraud trial
PHOENIX — After deliberating until nearly 5:30 p.m. Friday, the jury found William Liddle guilty of 54 counts and his wife, Rhonda, guilty of 36 counts in a case that cost AEA Federal Credit Union millions of dollars and contributed to its insolvency.
Another 14 counts, for misapplication of financial institution funds, had been dismissed at the request of the prosecution.
As the jury’s verdict was read, Rhonda Liddle broke into sobs. The couple’s 15-year-old daughter, who also was in court, starting crying as she heard the verdict against her parents.
Sentencing has been set for 1 p.m. May 21.
Judge Susan Bolton denied the prosecution’s motion that Liddle be taken into custody until the sentencing, noting that his wife of 25 years is here as are the couple’s two daughters and his wife’s extended family.
“They’re a close-knit family,” Bolton said. “It’s unthinkable he would flee his family.”
Besides, she said, he lacks the financial resources to leave the country, and his passport was taken.
After the verdict, Liddle hugged his daughter, then his wife. They left the courthouse arm and arm accompanied by their somber defense attorneys, declining to comment.
The 12 jurors — eight women and four men — also declined to comment.
The jury verdict came on Day 14 of the trial in U.S. District Court in Phoenix of the Liddles, who originally faced 68 counts: one count of conspiracy, 44 counts of federal credit institution fraud, three counts of wire fraud, the 14 counts of misapplication of financial institution fraud and six counts of transactional money laundering.
While Liddle was found guilty on all remaining counts, Rhonda Liddle was found guilty of the one count of conspiracy, 30 counts of federal credit institution fraud and five counts of money laundering.
The case stemmed from millions of dollars in bad loans Liddle approved for two major borrowers while he was head of AEA’s business lending department. In turn, federal prosecutors argued, the Liddles received more than $1 million in a kickback scheme that included cash, a house and two vehicles.
Last summer, co-defendant Frank Ruiz entered a plea agreement in exchange for his testimony against the Liddles in hopes of receiving a lesser sentence. He is to be sentenced March 12 in Judge Bolton’s court.
The trial moved more quickly than anticipated. It had been scheduled to last for five weeks.
It started with jury selection on Jan. 19 and opening arguments Jan. 20. A total of 10 witnesses were called: eight by the prosecution and two by the defense. Liddle was the only witness to take the stand in his own defense.