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FBI Phish Phry reels in 53 scam suspects

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WASHINGTON (10/9/09)--The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) began arresting 53 individuals in the U.S. Wednesday on charges of conducting a vast financial fraud based on phishing or tricking Internet users into revealing their bank account information at two of the nation's largest banks--Bank of America and Wells Fargo. Operation Phish Phry netted arrests in Southern California, Nevada and North Carolina, said the FBI. In addition, 47 co-conspirators in Egypt are being charged by authorities there. This is the largest number of defendants ever charged in a cybercrime case, said the FBI in a press release. The group allegedly stole at least $2 million from 2007 through September 2009 from hundreds and perhaps thousands of the banks' customers. Indictments in a U.S. District Court in Los Angeles accuse three California residents of masterminding the U.S. portion of the scam--Kenneth Joseph Lucas, 25; a friend, Jonathan Preston Clarke; and Nichole Michelle Merzi, Lucas' former girlfriend. They directed associates to recruit "runners" to set up bank accounts to receive funds stolen from the compromised accounts. The online component of the scam initiated in Egypt, where defendants sent mass e-mail messages that appeared to come from the banks, said the FBI. Recipients who clicked on a link in the messages were sent to a fake website identical or similar to the banks' sites, where they were asked to enter information such as their account numbers, passwords, Social Security numbers and drivers' license numbers. The U.S. group would transfer funds into their own accounts and remit money back to accomplices in Egypt. Each of the 53 defendants named in the indictment is charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. Various defendants also are charged with bank fraud; aggravated identity theft; conspiracy to commit computer fraud, specifically unauthorized access to protected computers in connection with fraudulent bank transfers; and domestic and international money laundering. Some analysts said the arrests won't have much impact on the number of online banking scams that have hit businesses, including credit unions. Many other groups are involved in similar fraudulent phish schemes, they said (The New York Times Oct. 8).

Three more nominations received for CUNA Board

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MADISON, Wis. (10/9/09)--The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) has received three more nominations for its 2009-2010 board elections. The new nominees and district categories are: Dennis K. Tanimoto, Hawaii Credit Union League, Honolulu, Hawaii, District 6, Class D; Robert M. Cashman, Metro CU, Chelsea, Mass., District 1, Class C; and Kris J. Mecham, Deseret First CU, Salt Lake City, Utah, District 5, Class B. Already nominated are:
* Laida Garcia, Florida Central CU, Tampa, Fla., District 3, Class B. * Dennis E. Pierce, CommunityAmerica CU, Kansas City, Mo., District 4, Class C; * John A. Graham, Kentucky Employees CU, Frankfort, Ky., District 2, Class A; * Marla S. Marsh, Kansas Credit Union Association, Wichita, Kan., District 5, Class D; and * Susan Steifel, Woodstone CU, Federal Way, Wash., District 6, Class A.
The deadline for nominations is Oct. 16. Nominations are being accepted in eight categories:
* District 1, Class C; * District 2, Class A; * District 3, Class B; * District 4, Class C; * District 5, Classes B and D; and * District 6, Classes A and D.
Eligible candidates must be an employee or voting board member of the nominating credit union. Nominations must be in writing and seconded in writing by two other credit unions of the same size group from the district. Only two seconds will be recorded for each candidate. Upon request, a list of credit unions by size group and district will be furnished to candidates to assist in obtaining seconds. To be an eligible league candidate for a CUNA Director position, individuals must be a league president and be nominated in writing by their league, with a second in writing by at least one other league from the district. CUNA’s Corporate Governance Committee will verify eligibility of each candidate, the credit union's affiliation, size group and district, and date/time of receipt. Voting will begin Oct. 23 and close Dec. 18. For more information, use the link.

ICU Day broadcast to celebrate global CU heritage

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MADISON, Wis. (10/9/09)--The continuing contributions of the worldwide credit union movement will be the topic of the annual International Credit Union Day (ICU Day) broadcast sponsored by the Credit Union Development Educators (CUDE) and the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU).
Pete Crear, World Council of Credit Unions president/CEO, will discuss credit unions’ global impact in the face of the ongoing economic crisis as part of an annual International Credit Union Day broadcast Thursday. (Photo provided by World Council of Credit Unions).
This year’s broadcast will originate from United Nations FCU, located in Long Island City, N.Y. Pete Crear, WOCCU president/CEO, will headline an hour-long Thursday discussion moderated by Paul Berry, a former Washington, D.C., television news anchor who hosts Home & Family Finance, a weekly radio program sponsored by the Credit Union National Association. Crear will discuss credit unions’ global impact in the ongoing economic crisis. While credit unions everywhere are affected by fallout from the economic crisis, credit union presence continues to expand globally, said Crear. Rather than contribute to ongoing economic problems, credit unions have diversified risk and provided consumers with safe alternatives when facing their own financial issues. WOCCU is increasing its efforts to reach consumers in urban and rural environments and in countries with significant economic and social challenges, including Afghanistan, Kenya and Sri Lanka, he added. “Worldwide, more than 54,000 credit unions in 97 countries serve more than 186 million members,” said Crear, citing data from WOCCU's 2008 Statistical Report released in June. “Our mission is to support financial independence and economic democracy through credit unions for people around the globe, and we're making great strides in achieving that goal.” The webcast will allow time at the end of Crear's interview for questions. International webcast listeners also will be able to e-mail questions to be answered on the air. The webcast begins at 2 p.m. EDT Thursday and runs until about 3 p.m. It is open to the public and may be accessed by registering at www.wescorp.org or www.woccu.org. The program will be recorded and available for viewing on WOCCU’s website.

Indiana CUs top banks in branching

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INDIANAPOLIS (10/9/09)--The cooperative nature of Indiana's credit unions has created a milestone--they now offer the largest branch network in the state. By partnering with Credit Union Centers of Indiana (CUCI), the networked credit unions provide members access to 201 shared Indiana locations. That's more branches than any other financial institution doing business in the state, including large regional players JP Morgan Chase, PNC/National City and Fifth Third, said CUCI. "This really speaks to the power of credit unions, and the cooperation among Indiana credit union leaders," said CUCI President Karol Griffin of Teachers CU, South Bend. "By sharing resources, credit unions can keep costs down and offer a great convenience to their members while staying extremely competitive." The network enables even the smallest credit union to compete with the largest banks in the region on convenience and access, said Dan Davis, Credit Union Centers executive vice president and chief financial officer. CUCI also is expanding in Illinois. Paul Simons of Rantoul, Ill.-based Credit Union 1 noted the credit union has partnered with CUCI "to begin building the largest branch network in Illinois. Credit unions continue to be a great choice for consumers, and by banding together and building a large shared-branch network, it will make joining a local credit union the smart choice." Credit Union 1 operates 13 of the 64 shared-branch locations operating in Illinois. CUCI is part of Credit Union Service Centers, a national shared-branching network that offers access to more than 3,800 shared branch locations nationwide.

City CU offer small biz start-up incentives

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DRYDEN, N.Y. (10/9/09)--The town of Dryden, N.Y., has teamed up with Alternatives FCU, based in Ithaca, to help local entrepreneurs start up their businesses or invest in them with a savings match program. The town and credit union will provide residents with Individual Development Accounts (IDA)--matched savings accounts that help moderate-income people save for asset purchases. For every dollar a person saves, the town will contribute $2 (Ithaca Journal Oct. 7). A maximum of $1,000 can be matched, which means a resident can get $3,000 for a start-up or expansion of their business. The business must be located in the town of Dryden and owned by Dryden residents. The funds are from payments of a loan the town provided several years ago to Cayuga Press. It received $400,000 in federal HOMES grant money. As Cayuga Press pays back the loan, the town is reinvesting part of the payments in other local businesses, starting with $30,000 for the IDA venture, the town board told the newspaper. Participants in the IDA match program are required to complete finance and business classes offered by Alternatives FCU, which developed an IDA program for both business and personal investments. More than 300 people have saved and made asset purchases through the program the past 10 years, said Alternatives CEO Tristram Coffin. That included 70 home purchases, he told the newspaper.

MembersFirst CU helps schools prevent flu

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (10/9/09)--MembersFirst CU in Grandview, Ohio, has partnered with a local school district to provide a year’s supply of alcohol-free foam sanitizer for students and faculty to use to help prevent the spread of flu and H1N1 viruses. The credit union donated the sanitizer and 25 dispensers. The sanitizer is a better alternative to alcohol-based sanitizer because it is certified “log kill 5,” which means it will kill bacteria and keep hands sterile for up to 30 minutes after each use, compared with 10 seconds for regular sanitizers, the credit union said. The dispensers and sanitizers have been placed in all three Grandview Heights City district schools. The sanitizers will help emphasize the health and well-being of students, faculty and staff without financial burden, according to MembersFirst. “Expanding our partnership with the Grandview Heights City School District by funding the placement of hand sanitizer units throughout the district’s school buildings allows us to fill a vital need at a time when preventing influenza outbreaks is a top public health concern,” said Greg Kidwell, MembersFirst treasurer and CEO.

CU System briefs (10/08/2009)

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* ST. LOUIS (10/9/09)--Vantage CU, with assets of $628 million, and the $50 million asset Spirit of St. Louis CU will merge, announced Vantage CU President/CEO Hubert Hoosman Jr. The merger will be final Dec. 1. "This merger is a mutually beneficial endeavor for both credit unions," said Hoosman. "It's a positive move for Vantage CU in that we'll be able to expand our reach out to Eureka and better serve our West County members." Spirit of St. Louis members will benefit from new locations, additional services and conveniences such as mortgages, investment services, and free money-management and educational services, he said. Vantage, which has more than 111,500 members, is based in St. Louis. Spirit of St. Louis, with 8,000 members served by two locations, is located in Eureka, Mo. It was founded in 1933 by a group of Kroger Food Stores employees in St. Louis. Vantage will now serve members from 16 branches in the greater St. Louis region and 19 counties in eastern Missouri as well as Madison and St. Clair Counties in Illinois … * KANSAS CITY, Mo. (10/9/09)--More than 60 attendees of the Kansas City Chapter of Credit Unions Legislative Breakfast Tuesday met face-to-face with state representatives and discussed credit union and state issues, including the shortfall in state revenue (The Missouri difference Oct. 7). Glenna Osborn, Missouri Central CU, Lee's Summit, noted that one legislator said credit unions need to continually educate representatives about credit union issues and issues impacting their members. Among the lawmakers present were state Reps. Gary Dusenberg (R-54), Jeff Grisamore (R-47), Paul LeVota (D-52), Jerry Nolte (R-33), Bryan Pratt (R-55) and Ray Salva (D-51). Pictured here are, from left: Laura Eblen of Central Missouri Community CU; Dusenberg; Judy Jett of Central Missouri Community CU; and Billy Wilson and Bob Durbin of Mazuma CU. (Photo provided by the Missouri Credit Union Association) … * TEMPE, Ariz. (10/9/09)--A backpack left in a trash can inside Tempe (Ariz.) Schools CU by a man who robbed the credit union had a fake bomb inside it, according to police. The man, armed with a handgun, walked into the credit union at about 10:40 a.m. Wednesday and demanded money from the teller. As he left, he deposited the backpack in the trash can before fleeing on foot. The credit union was evacuated and the Mesa bomb squad responded. The squad discovered the back pack contained a large battery that was smaller than a car battery. No one was injured (The Arizona Republic Oct. 8) … * FARGO, N.D. (10/9/09)--Denver Lee Tergesen, 25, who pleaded guilty to robbing the First Community CU of Jamestown, N.D. in December, was sentenced to 40 months in prison by a federal court judge and ordered to get mental health treatment. Defense attorneys argued that Tergesen suffers from chronic post traumatic stress disorder as a result of 14 months' military service in Iraq and has a gambling addiction. He robbed the credit union of about $10,000. He was arrested in a stolen car near Detroit Lakes, Minn. (Associated Press Newswires Oct. 7) … * CAPITOLA, Calif. (10/9/09)--BAY FCU was named Business of the Year by the Aptos (Calif.) Chamber of Commerce Sept. 25. Chamber
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Executive Director Karen Hibble noted Bay Federal's "strong support to many local organizations and schools through donations and volunteerism" and said it is "remarkable that 100% of employees have participated in community support activities for each of the last six years." "We are very proud of our dedicated and community minded employees--they are the reason that Bay Federal continues to make a real difference in Santa Cruz County," said Carrie Birkhofer, president/CEO of Bay Federal. Shown from left are: Maureen McCarty, a representative of California Sen. Abel Maldonado's office; California Assemblyman Bill Monning; Santa Cruz County Supervisor Ellen Pirie; and Birkhofer. Behind the podium is Renee Kilmer, vice president of Cabrillo College and Aptos Chamber president. (Photo provided by Bay FCU) …

CU sues McNairs estate for SUV

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (10/9/09)--A credit union has sued the estate of former Tennessee Titans Quarterback Steve McNair for outstanding payments on a sport utility vehicle he bought the woman who killed him two months later. Old Hickory CU, based in Old Hickory, Tenn., is seeking $43,000 for outstanding payments, attorney fees, and towing and storage for a Cadillac Escalade that McNair bought jointly with, his girlfriend, Sahel Kazemi, on May 7 (NewsChannel5.com Oct. 8). In early July, the couple was stopped in the SUV in downtown Nashville. Kazemi was jailed and charged with driving under the influence. McNair bailed her out. Two days later, Kazemi shot McNair to death, then committed suicide. McNair left no will.

Ohio deputy CU superintendent to take CUs helm

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (10/9/09)--Rose Bartolomucci, who has served as deputy superintendent of credit unions for the Ohio Division of Financial Institutions since 2007, will assume the CEO position at TeleCommunity CU in Akron, Ohio. She will take on the role as CEO later this month, replacing CEO Jack Sarver, who is retiring, according to the Ohio Credit Union League. “Rose served as an excellent regulatory leader for Ohio’s credit unions and provided the best in regulatory leadership, including open communications, commitment to safety and soundness, modern credit union supervision practices, and strong credit union representation,” said Paul Mercer, league president. Prior to joining the division, Bartolomucci was CEO of Vantage Financial CU, now Best Reward CU, Brook Park, and Kent CU (Ohio).

Missouri chapters donate 56000 to kids hospitals

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SPRINGFIELD and KANSAS CITY, Mo. (10/9/09)--Missouri credit unions in Springfield and Kansas City recently donated more than $56,000 to the Children’s Miracle Network for children’s hospitals.
Click to view larger image Members of the Springfield Chapter of Credit Unions present a donation--raised at an annual golf tournament--to the Children’s Miracle Network. (Photo provided by the Missouri Credit Union Association)
The Springfield Chapter of Credit Unions and the Kansas City Chapter of Credit Unions both sponsored golf tournaments in September to raise funds for the network (The Missouri difference Oct. 7). Springfield credit unions raised a record-breaking $30,700 at the 13th Annual Benefit Golf Tournament Sept. 11. The event included more than 120 golfers and major sponsors. The Greater Kansas City Credit Unions for Kids held its 14th Annual Tee Off for Tots Golf Classic in Independence Sept. 10, raising $26,000 for the network. Both credit union chapters used a Miracle Match from CO-OP Financial Services to increase their donation totals.

President of Poland visits Polish and Slavic FCU

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BROOKLYN, N.Y. (10/9/09)--Polish President Lech Kaczynski visited the Polish & Slavic FCU (PSFCU), Brooklyn, N.Y, while he was in New York last week for the opening of the United Nations General Assembly. His visit marked the first time an acting head of state had met with executives and employees of the 33-year-old credit union. Kaczynski shared stories about his credit union roots and the role U.S. credit unions played in Poland’s march toward democracy 20 years ago (earthtimes.org Oct. 8). “This is undoubtedly the greatest tribute we have even been awarded,” said Bogdan Chmielewski, CEO of PSFCU. “I cannot express the level of pride that all our employees and our 70,000 members are experiencing as a result of this visit. This visit is a testament to our success as the largest financial institution serving Polish people outside of Poland, and the work we do toward improving the lives of so many Polish-Americans.” In his speech to PSFCU guests and employees, Kaczynski remarked how proud he remains having been the first chairman of the Polish Credit Union Foundation in Poland, and the role that U.S. credit unions played in the emerging Polish government a generation ago. “The Polish & Slavic FCU is an institution that has been well-known to me for years,” Kaczynski said. “As a matter of fact, 20 years ago, a group of my 20-year-old associates left for the U.S., and brought back the idea and the knowledge of credit unions. They decided to establish such a movement in Poland, and truth be told, it is the largest Polish social/financial success since 1989.” Chmielewski told his guests that the Brooklyn-based credit union’s members retain strong ties to Poland, and that the credit union itself continues to work closely with the Polish Cooperative Savings and Loan (SKOK) organization. Much of the initial success of the SKOK can be attributed to the assistance yielded by its American counterparts, Kaczynski said. At the conclusion of Kaczynski’s visit, representatives from the PSFCU board of directors presented him with a commemorative statuette--a silver and gold replica of the PSFCU membership book, which grants him an honorary membership. “You are a movement that's very dear to me,” Kaczynski said.