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William Liddle sentenced to 15 years in prison
PHOENIX — William Liddle has been sentenced to 15 years in prison, with five years supervised release, for his role in the AEA Credit Union fraud case.
Liddle was immediately remanded into custody after his sentencing Friday afternoon in U.S. District Court in Phoenix. Liddle, the former member business loan chief at the AEA Federal Credit Union, will turn 52 in July.
Tom Martin, CEO of AEA Federal Credit Union, declined to comment at the sentencing.
"NCUA is pleased with this outcome and we will continue to work to put the credit union on firm financial footing," the National Credit Union Administration said in a prepared statement.
AEA has been under NCUA control since December 2010 due to losses the credit union suffered through an estimated $30 million in bad loans made by Liddle.
Veronica Martinez, a juror on the fraud case who attended the sentencing, said she thought Liddle’s sentence was appropriate.
Martinez also said she thought the federal prosecutors did a great job of presenting evidence in a "very complicated case."
She commended the jury as well, saying that jurors had been "really engaged" and took copious notes.
However, Martinez added, she thought the sentence received by Liddle’s wife, Rhonda, was a "little light."
On May 21, Rhonda Liddle was sentenced to 12 months of home incarceration followed by five years of supervised release for her role in the case. That will allow her to remain with the couple’s two daughters, ages 9 and 15.
William Liddle was scheduled to be sentenced that day, too, but reported he had suffered a stab wound to the chest shortly before he was due in court. Authorities say they have no leads in the stabbing. Liddle was not seriously hurt.
On Friday, Liddle arrived in court 10 minutes early, accompanied by his defense attorney, David Eisenberg. Rhonda Liddle was not in court for her husband’s sentencing.
A restitution hearing has been set for June 19 regarding the Liddles and co-defendant Frank Ruiz, who was sentenced to two years in prison. Ruiz had entered into a plea agreement on two charges and agreed to testify against the Liddles in exchange for getting a lighter sentence. He agreed to report to prison after the restitution hearing.
Before handing down her sentence for Liddle, U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton said there was some disagreement over the amount of losses Liddle should be held accountable for — more than $20 million or less.
Eisenberg said his client never intended to hurt the AEA and actually worked hard to try to make the funded projects succeed. But the projects, including Yuma Fun Factory, Top of the Kress and Tuscan Ranch, suffered from the economic downturn, he said.
He also noted that other financial institutions had suffered far greater losses as a result of the poor economy. Furthermore, he said, AEA is beginning to recover financially.
Federal prosecutor Monica Klapper noted, however, that AEA’s financial picture looks better in large part due to a $20 million loan NCUA made to the credit union in December 2011.
Bolton likened Liddle’s case to a young bank robber she is scheduled to sentence. In both cases, the bank robber and Liddle didn’t respect someone else’s property, whether it was a crime that took five minutes or over the course of five years. In both cases, a substantial prison term is suggested, she said.
Robert Schaffer, the contractor on several of the AEA-funded commercial projects, asked in court to speak on behalf of the businesses that suffered losses due to Liddle’s fraudulent activity and AEA’s subsequent financial difficulties.
The judge denied his request, saying she didn’t think he could provide any additional information that would impact the court’s decision.
In February, a jury convicted William Liddle of 54 counts of fraud, conspiracy and money laundering in connection with accepting more than $1 million in bribes in exchange for approving the business loans. Rhonda Liddle was convicted on 36 counts.