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Another CU difference shows up--in elderly abuse case
ANTIOCH, Calif. (12/31/07)--When an 82-year-old member was being bilked by an acquaintance of his life savings in his accounts at a credit union and three banks, the banks stood by and watched. The credit union, however, proved once again the credit union difference: It intervened. Antioch Schools FCU, Antioch, Calif., was cited in an editorial in (Dec. 27) about California's new law requiring mandatory reporting of possible financial abuse against elderly consumers. Before the law was a gleam in legislators' eyes, the credit union was investigating a series of withdrawals from member Jack Whittaker's account at the credit union. A $23,065.58 wire transfer from Whittaker's savings account was the starting point. A day after the money left his account, he visited the credit union to make a withdrawal and found out the money had gone to purchase an annuity he knew nothing about. Whittaker hadn't touched the account in five years, but in April 2005, he began withdrawing hundreds of dollars at a time. A younger man accompanied him, and credit union CEO Robert Greaff didn't believe the man's claim that he was Whittaker's caretaker. On Dec. 14, 2005, Whittaker visited the branch for another withdrawal, and the teller, who saw red flags on the account, asked what he wanted the funds for. He didn't know. Greaff contacted authorities about his suspicions. Greaff also contacted Allianz Insurance Co. of North America, got the wire transfer reversed, and set up an eight-month surveillance on Whittaker's account. That led to 10-year prison sentence for the companion, Joe Gonzales, for elder theft. Gonzalez had befriended Whittaker, who lived alone and had no family in the area. Over a year, Gonzales drained four bank accounts and ran through more than $100,000 of Whittaker's savings. He stood to inherit the man's home and annuities he persuaded Whittaker to buy from an associate. "Legally, the Antioch Schools FCU didn't have to do anything. The mandatory reporting law hadn't gone into effect yet. Employees could have looked the other way," said the article. It continued: "Bank of America didn't alert anyone while Gonzales was raiding Whittaker's account there. Neither did Citibank. Nor Wells Fargo." The editorial also noted, "It's a shame that we even need a law to compel people to do what is so clearly the moral thing to do."
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