A La Habra woman used her credit union job to secretly open bogus lines of credit for her online boyfriend, who then siphoned off nearly $1.1 million, a prosecutor told a federal jury Wednesday, but a defense attorney said the woman had been groomed by a con man who played on her emotions.
Indira Mohabir, 42, is charged in Los Angeles federal court with 15 felony counts, including conspiracy, fraud and unauthorized issuance of credit union obligations. The status of the case against her alleged accomplice, Phillip Cook, 51, who lived out of state at the time, was not immediately known.
“She did this because she and Phillip Cook were involved in an online relationship,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott Paetty said in his opening statement. “Cook, in turn, continually expressed his love for her.”
Mohabir, who worked as a business loan processor at the former Western Federal Credit Union in Hawthorne, met Cook in November 2014 through a hotline the credit union established for its business customers, the prosecutor told jurors.
In exchange for opening about $3 million in credit lines and hiding them from her employer, Cook promised to take Mohabir on romantic getaways, and sent her a $50,000 check and flowers, prosecutors allege in court documents. Although Mohabir and Cook had not yet met in person during the time of the alleged scheme from late 2014 to early 2015, the idea of marriage was floated in texts, according to the government.
Defense attorney Cuauhtemoc Ortega countered that the case “is about Indira Mohabir’s state of mind (and) whether she had intent to defraud Western Federal. She had no intent.”
Ortega described an online relationship that heated up “almost immediately” after Cook called the bank’s hotline and Mohabir picked up.
“They began professing their love for one another,” the defense attorney said, telling the jury that Cook sent the loan processor 18 white roses to her desk at the credit union.
“She believed that Mr. Cook loved her,” he said.
Cook conveyed the impression to Mohabir that he was a successful businessman with a high income, Ortega said in his opening statement.
Edgar Sandoval, a fraud investigator with the UNIFY Financial Credit Union — formerly Western Federal — testified that almost immediately, Mohabir began helping Cook open what would be nearly 30 credit lines, including more than a dozen platinum business Visa cards.
If convicted, Mohabir would face up to five years in federal prison on the conspiracy count and up to 30 years for each of the substantive fraud charges, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Testimony is expected to continue Thursday.
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