The former president of a Pekin-based teachers’ credit union was sentenced Friday to three years in federal prison for fraudulent loan practices that cost the business more than a half-million dollars.


Charles Juska, 54, is not “a bad man” and didn’t profit from his crimes, his judge said. The credit union’s board of directors also suspected his activities for at least two years. “Some of this could’ve been headed off.”


That’s in part why U.S. District Judge James Shadid in Peoria handed Juska about half of the minimum punishment that federal sentence guidelines called for in his case.


He will go to prison, however, “because Americans have lost faith in many of the institutions” in which they entrust their savings, and those who abuse that faith must be punished, Shadid said.


Juska did so, his defense attorney said, when he “thought of himself as the rule keeper who could make his own” over the last five of the 17 years he served as president of the Tazewell County School Employees Credit Union.


Between 2005-2010, he fraudulently issued and extended dozens of loans and covered customers’ defaults by opening loans in other customers’ names without their knowledge.


He concealed delinquent loans from state and federal regulators as well as the board of the not-for-profit union, which serves about 3,000 teachers and family members. A jury convicted him last May of 11 counts of bank fraud, misapplication of credit union funds and false entry to credit union records.


Defense attorney Joel Brown said in Juska’s trial that he sought only to help credit union members who had fallen on “hard times” by issuing loans to customers without collateral and keeping them from defaulting.


Juska, his voice shaking with emotion, told Shadid on Friday he realizes now that, “I put the interests of the borrowers ahead of the credit union, and it crossed into criminality.”


Juska was dismissed in 2010 after a series of audits revealed his actions and was indicted four years later. Brown said he’s worked in recent years “selling hot dogs at the ball park” and working with special needs children at an area high school.


With his prison term, he also will be ordered to pay restitution to the credit union of an amount to be determined at a March 28 hearing. He’ll be allowed to remain free until a week after that hearing.

Follow Michael Smothers at Twitter.com/msmotherspekin