Beware the company you keep.

Perhaps that will be one lesson learned by a pair of Maryland women who defrauded the American Red Cross credit union for years and then found themselves doublecrossed by the very friends, relatives and associates who benefitted from their scheme, according to federal prosecutors.

Or maybe the lesson will be something about the nature of payback

As described Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Washington, where the women pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud:

Credit union employees Tracy S. Kemper, 35, of Temple Hills, and Tiffany A. Samuells, 34, of Greenbelt, arranged fraudulent loans for folks they knew. The borrowers would kick back between $1,000 to $3,500 on each loan to Kemper, a loan processor, and Samuells, a member services representative.

The deals through the small Clara Barton credit union went on between 2006 and October 2008. But as the pool of borrowers grew, some of them realized there was no reasonto repay since Kemper and Samuells would be in a bad spot if the loans were discovered.

Those borrowers put Kemper and Samuells on the spot, causing the women to dip into their kickbacks to cover the minimum payments to prevent defaults that would attract attention, prosecutors said.

The fraud was uncovered when the Red Cross’s credit union was merging with the larger Pentagon Federal Credit Union, known as PenFed, in November 2008. PenFed staff detected the suspicious loans.

In all, Kemper and Samuells caused $678,311 in fraudulent loans to be issued. They are scheduled for sentencing on July 6 and face between 27 months and 33 months in prison. They have agreed to pay restitution and forfeiture.

Kemper and Samuells were the only people charged in the case.