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Magistrate R.I. embezzler unlikely to make full restitution

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (11/21/07)--The man whose $12 million embezzlement prompted the Rhode Island state banking crisis in 1990 has paid back just over $4,500 of the more than $12 million he owes since his release from prison five years ago. Joseph Mollicone Jr., former president of the defunct Heritage Loan & Investment Co., was paying $217 a month in restitutions. At that rate, it would take 4,606 years to pay back the remainder owed (The Providence Journal via Associated Press Newswires Nov. 17). Superior Court Magistrate Patricia Lynch Harwood recently increased the monthly payment to $292 a month after Mollicone married and his expenses dropped. But Harwood said it is unlikely Mollicone will ever pay back the full amount. When the bank failed, it forced the closure of 44 other financial institutions, including credit unions, insured by the Rhode Island Share and Deposit Indemnity Corp. The state was forced to borrow more than $300 million to pay depositors who couldn't access their money for more than 18 months. Mollicone was convicted of embezzlement in 1993 and sentenced to 30 years in prison, $12 million in restitution and $420,000 in fines. He was released on parole in 2002, and began making restitution payments.

Thanks to planningtraining CU was prepared for robbery

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WICHITA FALLS, Texas (11/21/07)--Texoma Community CU experienced the first robbery in its 50-year history Friday, and it credits emergency planning and staff training for ensuring that no one was hurt. The Wichita Falls, Texas-based credit union has 32 pages of emergency planning just for a robbery, President Wayne Mansur told KAUZ-TV News (Nov. 19). He noted every employee is familiar with the credit union's policy, and said that preparation kept everyone safe. Every business should have plans in place that focus on keeping people safe, Mansur said. Looking out for people's safety is the most important thing in a catastrophe, he added. His advice: Whether at home or at work, give robbers what they want and get them to leave quickly. Material things are not worth putting anyone in danger. Stay calm and make mental notes as the robbery progresses. Once the robbers leave, lock the doors and call police. Write down everything you can remember about the robber. Most important, he said, was talking about your plan with your employees or your family.

Huron River has new name as division of Detroit Edison

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. (11/21/07)--The liquidated Huron River Area CU, whose assets were purchased and assumed earlier this week by Detroit Edison CU, is now known as Huron River Financial, a division of the Detroit credit union. The National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) assumed control of Ann Arbor-based Huron River's $170 million worth of loans for Florida real estate, along with a related lawsuit. Many of the loans are delinquent (The Ann Arbor News Nov. 19). Detroit Edison CU received Huron River's members, deposits and assets and a scrubbed clean balance sheet. The acquisition will mean Detroit Edison will have more than $700 million in assets, making it the ninth-largest credit union in Michigan. According to Bill Thiess, president/CEO of Detroit Edison CU, credit union members will see no change or interruption in service. He noted that Huron River's 38,000 members are now part of one of the strongest financial institutions in the state. Detroit Edison's $160 million asset mortgage portfolio has only one home in foreclosure, with about $9,000 owed on the loan. Before the purchase and assumption, Detroit Edison's assets totaled $485.6 million and it served 28,000 members. David Adams, president of the Michigan Credit Union League, told The Ann Arbor News that Detroit Edison CU has deep relationships with its members, who have not only savings, but also auto loans, mortgage loans and retirement savings with the credit union.

CUs kick off holiday season with parades

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MADISON, Wis. (11/21/07)--While most of America will launch their holiday season by consuming quantities of Thanksgiving turkey and shopping on Black Friday, many credit unions will bring out their float banners and participate in or sponsor holiday parades.
Getting into the spirit, Pagoda FCU participated in the 2007 Reading (Pa.) Holiday Parade for the second consecutive year. Its float was decorated with gifts, waving elves and banners wishing the community, "Happy Holidays." Pagoda's penguin mascot debuted at the parade. Staffers distributed 2,000 goodie bags to parade attendees. (Photo provided by Pagoda FCU)
For example, the 55th annual Nashville (Tenn.) Christmas Parade will be presented again this year by Southeast Financial FCU. The parade will be at 7 p.m. Dec. 7. This is the third year the $311 million asset credit union is the presenting sponsor. "It has always been a great event for Nashville, and our experience over the past two years has been so good that we were excited to have the opportunity to be involved again this year," said John Simmons, president/ CEO (PR Newswire via Nov. 19). Here's a sampling of other credit unions participating in holiday parades.
* Manitowoc, Wis.: In the 19th annual Thanksgiving Eve traditional parade, RiverWood Maritime CU, a $24 million asset credit union in Two Rivers, will sponsor honorary parade marshal Dick Weber riding in a Cinderella-type carriage drawn by the Clydesdales of Keyes' Gentle Giants (Manitowoc Herald Times Reporter Nov. 14). * Monroe, Mich.: In Monroe's Holiday Parade last week, 11,000 to 12,000 people saw Jon Amazeen, head teller at the $107 million asset Monroe County Community CU, marching in a mask, dressed in green and white, and carrying a round shield. He was one of five Super Savers who waved and saluted the crowd (Monroe News Nov. 19). * Royal Oak, Mich.: Our Credit Union presented the Anchor Bay Marching Band during Downtown Royal Oak's Sixth Annual Holiday Magic Parade on Saturday. The $134 million asset credit union also helped provide treats at Santa's First Stop in metro Detroit. * Fremont, Ohio: Fremont FCU, a $118 million asset credit union, has offered its parking lot to Santa and his reindeer for photo sessions with Santa this week. The community will have its 17th annual Festival of Lights Parade downtown on Saturday (News-Messenger Nov. 16). * Harrisburg, Pa.: More than 50 employees of Pennsylvania State Employees CU and their families participated in the Harrisburg Holiday Parade Saturday. The $2.8 billion asset credit union sponsored a "Joy of Giving" float dedicated to the Interfaith Shelter for Homeless Families and The Central Pennsylvania Food Bank. Also, employees escorted Bear in the Big Blue House, a giant balloon float. The parade will be broadcast locally on Thanksgiving Day. This was the credit union's fourth year participating in the event (Life is a Highway Nov. 20). * Wilkes-Barre, Pa: Cross Valley FCU, which has $117 million assets, Saturday brought a company van, a float and a rented flatbed that carried a fictitious four-piece winter Christmas band for the city's annual parade held Saturday. "We're really excited to be part of this community and thrilled to have the opportunity to be a part of such a parade as this," Colleen Phillips, vice president of marketing, told the Times Leader Nov. 18).

Athens named California league board chairman

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SAN DIEGO (11/21/07)--Lynn Athens, president/CEO of Spectrum FCU in San Francisco, was named California Credit Union League (CCUL) board chairman during the recent CCUL Annual Meeting and Convention held in San Diego. Athens began her career in credit unions in 1975, and has worked at several San Francisco area credit unions. In 1991, she arrived at Spectrum FCU, where she served as president/CEO since 1996. She has served on the CCUL Government Relations Committee for four years, and is the past chair of the Fiscal Affairs Committee. She also has served on the CCUL Political Action Committee, as well as the Bylaws Committee, and Awards Committee. Other elected CCUL officers are:
* First Vice Chairman: Brett Martinez, president/CEO, Redwood CU, Santa Rosa; * Second Vice Chairman: Jeff York, president/CEO, CoastHills FCU, Lompoc; * Executive Committee: Darren Williams, president/CEO, Wescom CU, Pasadena; * Executive Committee: Eileen Rivera, president/CEO, FAA First FCU, Hawthorne; and * Ex Officio Committee Member: Debra Grisamer, president/CEO, Alta Vista CU, San Bernardino.

Ghana presidential candidate to promote CUs

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ANUM APAPAM, Ghana (11/21/07)--A Ghana presidential candidate says he will promote credit unions as a way of easing poverty if he is elected president. The assertion by Hackman Owusu Agyeman of the New Patriot Party was in a speech read Saturday on his behalf by James Appiah, a member of his campaign team, at the first Annual General Meeting of the Anum Apapam Community Cooperative CU (Modern Ghana News Nov. 19). In the wake of the Second World War, citizens in European countries ravished by the war were able to reorganize their economic lives using the credit union system, and today many lead more fruitful lives because of its influence, Agyeman said. Joe Boadu, training officer of the Credit Union Association (CUA) of Ghana, called on attendees to save and invest in credit unions.

CUNA closed INews NowI wont publish Thursday Friday

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WASHINGTON and MADISON, Wis. (11/21/07)--The Credit Union National Association's (CUNA's) Washington, D.C., and Madison, Wis., offices will be closed Thursday and Friday in observance of the Thanksgiving holiday. News Now will not publish on those dates but will resume its regular publication schedule on Monday, Nov. 26.

Pennsylvania Senate passes anti-phish measure

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (11/21/07)--A bill that would help consumers and financial institutions in the battle against identity theft by making phishing illegal in Pennsylvania was unanimously passed Monday by the state Senate. Written by State Sen. Jake Corman (R-34), the legislation, SB390, would make it a felony to phish personal information. The bill would carry a fine of $10,000 for each violation, with the ability to collect damages up to three times the actual amount (Life Is A Highway Nov. 20). The bill--which gives the state attorney general sole jurisdiction to prosecute violations-- also stipulates that if an Internet user provides personal information, the individual who solicits the information could be charged with a third-degree felony. A phisher selling or distributing the information could be charged with a second-degree felony. The legislation also affords Internet service providers and other website owners with recourse to pursue civil relief, if their business is misrepresented by a phishser. Credit unions and other financial institutions are often the targets of phish attempts. The legislation now goes to the state House of Representatives for consideration.

CUs good for members good for economy say media

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PEWAUKEE, Wis. (11/21/07)--National and local media are picking up on the benefits that credit unions have to offer their members. Credit unions provide a “financial lifeline for people from all walks of life--from working people to small business owners to people with modest incomes,” according to the Wisconsin Credit Union League. The league released a compilation of stories Monday in the media. Among the highlights:
* Money Magazine said credit unions provide the best deals in banking, higher returns on certificates of deposit, and lower interest rates on credit cards and auto loans; * Consumer Reports conducted a survey of 21 credit card issuers that indicated credit unions’ cards ranked higher in customer satisfaction than Bank of America, Citibank, HSBC, Capital One and JP Morgan Chase; * Forrester Research, based in Cambridge, Mass., indicated that credit unions “beat banks 2-to-1--when consumers were asked what institution does ‘what’s best for me, not what’s best for the bottom line' "; * The Competitive Enterprise Institute, a Washington think tank, suggested that credit unions should increase business lending to grow the U.S. economy. Because credit unions are not-for-profit, they make small loans banks deny as being unprofitable; * The Center for American Progress, a nonpartisan policy research and advocacy organization, said broadening access of low-income Americans to credit unions could cut the nation’s poverty rate in half; * USA Today reported that more than 1,000 credit unions have alternative products to high-interest payday loans; and * National Review Online reported that credit unions provide a “vital source of financial liquidity that can soften the blow in the face of a national credit crunch.” The publication noted that if credit unions were taxed, they’d have to cut back on loans that break even, drying up credit for some borrowers.

CU System briefs (11/20/2007)

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* DENVER (11/21/07)--Police arrested a third individual in connection with the murder of Heather Garraus, a former employee of Colorado State Employees CU's Greeley branch. Michelle Dawn Moore, 26, was charged Tuesday with conspiracy and criminal attempt to commit murder ( Nov. 20). Moore, a friend of Shawna Nelson, who is accused of killing Garraus outside the credit union branch in January, originally testified that Nelson told her she planned to kill Garraus. However, Moore later changed her story. Nelson was arrested in January, and later admitted to police that she was romantically involved with Garraus’ husband, Ignacio. Nelson’s husband, Ken, also was arrested and charged as an accomplice. Both Ken Nelson and Ignacio Garraus left their law-enforcement jobs and moved out of state … * BURNSVILLE, Minn. (11/21/07)--For the second year, US FCU staff surpassed the $18,000 mark for its annual drive for Combined Federal Campaign for national and local charities. This year, the month-long campaign involved stuffing a foiled "CFC: El Grande burrito" (shown here with staff) with contributions. Staff could choose a variety of individual and group "ingredients" or pledging options to bulk up the burrito. US FCU matched the funds raised and exceeded the corporate goal of more than $18,116. More than $5,600 will go to the credit union's designated charity, the Children's Miracle Network. (Photo provided by US FCU) … * HARRISBURG, Pa. (11/21/07)--Pennsylvania Credit Union Foundation Executive Director Joe Wambach and Maureen Mealy, compliance and operations officer with the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association (PCUA), attended the "Little Rock Nine" 50th Anniversary symposium Nov. 12 in Lancaster, Pa. (Life is a Highway Nov. 20). Mealy's son, Todd Mealy, educator and director of the Unheralded Heroes Project providing race relations education, organized the event. There, Wambach discussed PCUA's financial literacy program with 400 students, teachers and community members. The Little Rock Nine were African-American students who defied segregationists in 1957 by enrolling at an all-white high school in Arkansas, a pivotal event in the civil rights movement. From left are Wambach, Mealy, and Dr. Terrence Roberts, speaker and member of the Little Rock Nine. (Photo provided by the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association) … * MADISON, Wis. (11/21/07)--Youth-chartered STAR CU has launched a website that allows members to gain account access on the Web and learn more about the credit union. It also plans to provide financial education materials, according to the Wisconsin Credit Union League (The League News Nov. 19). STAR CU, based in Madison, Wis., includes past or current members and staff of the Boys & Girls Club of Dane County, plus staff of its co-founders, Great Wisconsin and Summit CUs. It is located in a low- to moderate-income neighborhood and works to teach kids the value of saving and stresses payday lending alternatives …

Report Latinos want to grasp use financial services

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MADISON, Wis. (11/21/07)--Latino families lag behind non-Hispanic white families in the usage of most wealth-enhancing financial instruments, but nonprofits--such as credit unions--can help change this, according to the Filene Research Institute’s latest report. The report, “Financial Services and Product Usage by Latinos in the United States,” indicated that Latinos are similar to white families in their consumption of basic financial services and products, such as primary homes, vehicles and debt instruments. Barbara Robles, associate professor in the College of Public Programs at Arizona State University, is the author. However, Latino families lag behind white families in use of wealth enhancers, such as retirement pensions, nonfinancial equity, and several stock market-linked financial instruments, Robles found. The lag is not attributed to risk aversion, Robles argues, but rather to two factors:
* Income constraints tied to educational outcomes; and * Lack of familiarity with and knowledge of financial markets and, consequently, a lack of understanding and use of financial products tied to financial market movements.
“Clearly the data tell us that Latino families want to understand and use financial services and products,” Robles said in the report. “Financial markets, services and products are often paralyzingly complex and overwhelming for nascent financial service consumers, especially those with limited exposure to financial institutions. “One way to help achieve trust and comfort is to partner with community-based nonprofit organizations that engage in financial education outreach, operate tax preparation sites, and offer International Development Association programs and basic homeownership counseling,” she continued. For low-income Latino neighborhoods, community-based nonprofit organizations that serve and are led by Latinos can have an effective, long-term role in the financial well-being of high-density, low-income neighborhoods, Robles said. “In order to best serve this booming market, basic fundamentals of marketing such as cultural appeal, knowing the educational levels of the consumer niche, and assuming rudimentary financial product understanding--such as teaching the magic of compound interest--become essential components for delivering financial services in high-density Latino communities,” Robles concluded.