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CU System briefs (12/27/2012)

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  • FORT WAYNE, Ind. (12/27/12)--Fort Wayne, Ind., police say they are concerned that serial robbers may be behind a surge in credit union and bank robberies in the area (Associated Press via The Dec. 16). Fort Wayne reported 15 financial institution robberies during 2012, some of which involved the institutions' employees being bound or injured.  The total is more than the past four years combined, said police. On Nov. 30, an employee of ProFed FCU was ambushed and held at gunpoint, then she and two co-workers were bound at the hands and ankles while three men collected cash and fired shots in the building before fleeing. That robbery was one of the most violent of this year's robberies, police said. The area also experienced a high number of robberies in the late 1990s before the creation of a special robbery task force in Northeast Indiana. Police said that most times a rash of robberies may occur when someone is released from prison or moves into the area, or from gang activities as individuals move on to other crimes. Six of the 2012 robberies occurred at Chase Bank locations.  So far, three men have been arrested, with two convicted and a third to stand trial in January …
  • MARLBOROUGH, Mass. (12/27/12)--A Marlborough, Mass., man was charged Thursday with two counts of uttering a false check and two counts of larceny by check over $250 after he allegedly stole more than $5,000 in checks from his girlfriend's parents (The MetroWest Daily News Dec. 21). Jason A. Pagan, 32, allegedly tried to cash one of the checks at St. Mary's CU. The branch manager contacted the victims and told them Pagan had tried to cash the check but couldn't because of insufficient funds. Police said Pagan allegedly had drained their account by writing himself 12 checks totaling $5,551 …
  • HARRISBURG, Pa. (12/27/12)--The Pennsylvania Credit Union Association (PCUA) Monday announced that Abby Kiebach, CEO of Lancaster (Pa.) Red Rose CU, has been selected as the recipient of the 2013 Paul E. Kanjorski Advocacy Scholarship (Life is a Highway Dec. 26). The award entitles Kiebach to attend the CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC) in Washington, D.C., in February. Kiebach has developed working relationships with local, state and federal officials. Through her experience at the CUNA GAC, she hopes to enhance her political knowledge for continued service on the association's Governmental Affairs Committee, and make a difference for the credit union movement, said PCUA ...
  • SAN ANTONIO (12/27/12)--Security Service FCU (SSFCU) is officially a Juntos Avanzamos credit union. Texas Credit Union League (TCUL) President/CEO Dick Ensweiler last week presented the credit union with a proclamation and a flag, which represents the credit union's participation in the TCUL initiative (LoneStar Leaguer Dec. 17). The Juntos Avanzamos--or Together We Advance--designation is earned through a rigorous application and review process, in which a credit union must demonstrate it has the capacity, commitment and compassion to serve the Hispanic market's financial needs, said the league ...

CUs made sure kids had good holiday

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Click to view larger imageEmployee JoAnn Ruggiero (third from left) of Bethpage (N.Y.) FCU shops with children who are clients of Education & Assistance Corp. (EAC) programs as part of the 13th Annual EAC Holiday Shopping Spree sponsored by the Marie & Micheal Gubitosi Foundation.  More than 100 children were given $100 Walmart gift cards, and an hour and a half to shop with Bethpage volunteers to help them decide on toys, clothing and electronics to fulfill their holiday wish list. (Photo provided by Bethpage FCU)
MADISON, Wis. (12/27/12)--Credit unions nationwide undertook or sponsored holiday programs to make sure children had a happy holiday season.

Bethpage (N.Y) FCU, with $4.85 billion in assets, pledged its support to several children's non-profit organizations, providing toys and support to underprivileged Long Island families. For the fourth year in a row, through its "Heart of Bethpage" community outreach program, Bethpage volunteered to support Operation Jocelyn Spirit, a nonprofit organization that answers children's letters to Santa. More than 80 Bethpage employees "adopted" a local child, answered his or her letter, and fulfilled the child's holiday wish list by purchasing presents.

Bethpage also participated in the 13th annual Education & Assistance Corp. Holiday Shopping Spree, sponsored by the Marie & Micheal Gubitosi Foundation and hosted this year by Walmart's Farmingdale location. More than 200 Long Island foster children each received a $100 gift card to purchase items on their holiday list and shopped with Bethpage volunteers, who helped them make their choices of toys, clothing and electronics.

Bethpage supported two additional efforts including the John Theissen Foundation Toy Drive by placing toy collection bins in every branch. This is the 10th year Bethpage has worked with the foundation. Also, as part of the Newsday Holiday Lights Festival, sponsored by Bethpage, children and families from across Long Island created holiday cards for children admitted to Cohen's Children's Medical Center, located in New Hyde Park.   

Other examples of credit unions with the holiday spirit:

  • Click to view larger image Standing among 3,070 toys collected by employees of Virginia Beach, Va.-based Chartway FCU  are, from left: Lance Cpl. Shinequa Murray, United States Marine Corps (USMC); Stephanie Harney, Chartway regional sales support manager; Rick Richter, Chartway vice president of technology; and Lance Cpl. Michael Bersch, USMC. Chartway employees surpassed their goal of collecting 2,000 toys by more than 1,000, putting the credit union among the top five corporate contributors in Hampton Roads. (Photo provided by Chartway FCU)
    Employees and members of Chartway FCU in Virginia Beach, Va., rallied together to help ensure that thousands of needy children in Hampton Roads could wake up Christmas morning with smiles and the glee of playing with a new toy. "No child should have to go without a present and no parent should have to see the look of sadness on their child's face because for some families, holiday presents areluxuries--and food, heat, and clothing are necessities," Rick Richter, Chartway president of technology. With a goal of collecting 2,000 toys, the $1.9 billion asset credit union encouraged employees to drop off brand new toys in collection boxes at their Chartway branches. Friendly competition among departments, branches, and individuals helped push this year's drive well past all records. In surpassing its goal and donating 3,070 toys, Chartway landed among the top five corporate contributors in Hampton Roads, according to Toys for Tots.
  • Members and staff of Highmark FCU in Rapid City, S.D., and "Secret Santas" from the Black Hills community were busy bringing in gifts for each child at the Black Hills Children's Home campus in Rockerville, south of Rapid City. All gifts from the children's wish list were returned to the $86.2 million asset Highmark FCU's main office, by Dec. 17-- in time to be wrapped and labeled for the Black Hill's Children's Home Christmas Eve celebration. Several donations delivered to Highmark covered extra holiday expenses at the Children's Home. One anonymous donor, who was physically unable to shop for gifts, sent in $400. The staff at Highmark FCU also pitched in to build on that donation. The extra funds covered any last minute gift and additional holiday needs at the home.
  • For more than 20 years, employees of Aberdeen Proving Ground FCU (APGFCU) in Edgewood, Md., have partnered with The Salvation Army and its Angel Tree program each December to provide assistance to local families during the holiday season. Staff at the $932 million asset APGFCU collected hundreds of new toys, bikes and clothing for children in Harford County. Through the Angel Tree program, local families in need registered their children for Christmas gifts through The Salvation Army. Gift-givers could choose to donate all of the items on a child's wish list or additional gifts. Once donations were collected, The Salvation Army sorted and distributed the gifts to the families before Christmas Eve.
  • Click to view larger imageThe staff at Highmark FCU in Rapid City, S.D.,  presented a check for $500 to Theresa Schreiner, volunteer program and development coordinator, Black Hills Children's Home, to help cover holiday expenses. (Photo provided by Highmark FCU)
    Three Connecticut credit union chapters--the Hartford Chapter, the New Haven Chapter, and the Moran/Nixon Chapter--joined forces to celebrate the holidays with a gathering that featured business meetings and reports, a sitdown feast, holiday entertainment, and contributions of unwrapped toys for the U.S. Marines' traditional Toys for Tots program. The 10th consecutive get-together in Plantsville, was attended by 173 guests from 22 credit unions, who donated hundreds of toys and a record $1,830 in cash from chapter coffers and raffle ticket sales for the toy collection program (Record-Journal Dec. 26).

CNBS to provide Malawian student internship

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (12/27/12)--CNBS, a securities brokerage and investment advisory firm serving the credit union community, announced it will provide a 12-month internship to a Malawian student, Christopher Hamera, in 2013.

Hamera, 25, is a student at Africa University in Mutare, Zimbabwe, and is majoring in economics. His home is in Blantyre, Malawi.

Malawi, a land-locked country in sub-Saharan Africa, is the fifth-poorest nation in the world. Roughly 85% of the 14 million Malawians residing in the country are subsistence farmers. However, since the 1970s, Malawi has had a credit union system, which is improving access to financial services and contributing to members' financial stability.

There are about 30 credit institutions in Malawi--called Savings and Credit Cooperatives (SACCOs). The SACCOs have their own trade association, the Malawi Union of Savings and Credit Cooperatives organized in 1980. Sylvester Kadzola, president/CEO of MUSCCO, is on the board of directors of the World Council of Credit Unions, and is supportive of CNBS' internship program.

"Christopher's internship will focus on credit unions and other financial institutions, the securities markets, and central banking," said Brian Hague, CNBS president. "His long-term career objective is to lead the Reserve Bank of Malawi (Malawi's central bank), and he hopes his internship will lead to career opportunities within the country's SACCO system."

HarborOne sets March meeting on converting to bank

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BROCKTON, Mass. (12/27/12)--HarborOne CU has scheduled a special meeting of its members to vote on the Brockton, Mass.-based credit union's proposal to convert to a mutual cooperative bank charter.

The meeting is set for 5 p.m. E.T. on March 11 at The Shaw's Center in Brockton (Enterprise Dec. 25). If approved, the conversion would go into effect by the end of 2013.

The credit union has said that converting to a bank charter would enable it to expand into Boston, make more commercial loans and raise more capital. It also has said it cannot open a branch in Boston because it is restricted to serving four counties in Southeastern Massachusetts.

The National Credit Union Administration has pointed out that the credit union could petition the state to expand its geographic boundaries. The agency also has said HarborOne is not near its member business lending cap and it could sell stock to raise capital (News Now May 8).

Members who have had an account at the credit union for at least three months as of this coming Feb. 15, and who are at least 18 years old, will be eligible to cast their ballot on the proposed change.  A conversion would require a simple majority of the members who vote. Members will be sent ballots before the meeting, and they can choose to vote either by mail, by taking their  ballot to their branch, or in person at the meeting in March.

The $1.9 billion asset credit union has more than 150,000 members.

Several states report CU mergers

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MADISON, Wis. (12/27/12)--Credit unions in several states reported mergers or proposed mergers with other credit unions before the holidays. Here is the latest merger list.

In Texas, Two San Antonio credit unions--Air Force FCU and Peoples Choice of San Antonio FCU (PSCA FCU)--announced they have merged, as of Dec. 15,  with Air Force FCU remaining as the primary credit union. PSCA's field of membership will be incorporated into the Air Force FCU charter.

Air Force FCU President/CEO Robert "Bob" Glenn will continue to head the surviving credit union. The merger will create a stronger financial cooperative and provide expanded services to members in San Antonio and around the world, the credit unions said in a press release.  The merger will provide access to eight branches in San Antonio and brings Air Force FCU to more than $350 million assets and nearly 37,000 members.

In Springfied, Mo., CU Community CU (CUCCU), announced the completion of its merger with Springfield-based Southwest Missouri CU, effective immediately.  CUCCU is the remaining credit union. The combined credit union has more than 10,000 members and $90 million in assets.  Southwest Missouri CU had more than 3,500 members living and working in Greene and Christian Counties, said CUCCU President/CEO Judy Hadsall. "The merger is complete, and Southwest Missouri CU members are already taking advantage of enhanced products and services offered by CU Community," Hadsall said.

Two credit unions in Niagara Falls, N.Y.,  have merged, effective Dec. 1. They are the $78 million asset Niagara's Choice FCU and the $46 million asset Niagara County's FCU.  The combined credit union will be known as Niagara's Choice FCU, and have 23,000 members and $122 million in assets.  It now operates five full-service branches--two in Niagara Falls and one each in Lockport, North Tonawanda and Wheatfield  (Business First of Buffalo Online Dec. 13). The combined credit union will retain Niagara's Choice CEO Alfred Frosolone.  Nancy Kasprzak-Whitmore, former CE) of Niagara County's FCU, will be executive vice president of the combined credit union.  No staff have lost their jobs in the merger, which makes Niagara's Choice the second largest credit union in the county and the fifth largest in the region.

In Minnesota, Baxter-based Mid-Minnesota FCU, a $237 million asset credit union with 36,109 members, announced that on Dec. 1, Ashby FCU, a $1.2 million asset credit union serving 500 members in Ashby, had merged into Mid-Minnesota.

St Paul Croatian FCU defendant enters not guilty plea

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CLEVELAND (12/27/12)--Another figure arrested in the loan fraud scheme that contributed to the collapse in 2010 of Eastlake, Ohio-based St. Paul Croatian FCU has entered a not guilty plea for his alleged role in the case.

Svetislav Vujovic, 40, of Brunswick, Ohio, pleaded not guilty Friday in a federal court in Cleveland to one count of financial institution fraud, one count of bribery in connection with the business dealings of a financial institution, and two counts of money laundering.

The indictment filed against him earlier this month alleged that from January 2004 to January 2008, he fraudulently obtained loans totaling about $2.2 billion, which were not repaid (Medina County Gazette Dec. 8).

Vujovic is one of nearly 20 people who have been arrested for the fraud scheme.

The scheme involved $1 million in kickbacks, bribes and gifts paid to the defunct credit union's CEO, Anthony Raguz, in return for issuing more than 1,000 fraudulent loans to more than 300 account holders at the credit union. The loans were worth a total $70 million and were allegedly made from 2000 to April 2010, when the credit union was placed into conservatorship, then liquidated by the National Credit Union Administration.

Raguz was sentenced last month to 14 years in prison (News Now Nov. 27). The alleged ringleader. Koljo Nikolovski, 49, of Eastlake and Skopje, Macedonia, was sentenced to 18 years in prison (News Now May 14).

The closure of the credit union, which cost the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund more than $170 million, was one of the costliest credit union failures in history

Guthrie FCU is newest member of FHLBank Pittsburgh

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PITTSBURGH (12/27/12)--Guthrie FCU in Sayre, Pa., is the newest member of the Federal Home Loan Bank (FHLBank) of Pittsburgh, the FHLBank announced Monday.

The FHLB is a three-state financial institution cooperative of commercial banks, thrifts, credit unions and insurance companies in Delaware, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

The $62 million asset Guthrie FCU has membership spanning more than 60 common bonds of community activity, including families, businesses and nonprofits. Guthrie FCU is the 28th credit union member to join FHLBank Pittsburgh (Business Wire Dec. 26).

Earlier this month, AmeriChoice FCU in Mechanicsburg, Pa., with $165.8 million in assets, also joined the FHLB-Pittsburgh.

Membership in FHLBank Pittsburgh supports Guthrie FCU's liquidity by providing access to FHLBank's product line of financial services, including low-cost loans (advances), which can be used for community lending, general asset/liability management and financing.

WOCCU taps nine International Exec Volunteer Corps leaders

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MADISON, Wis. (12/27/12)--World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) has inducted nine credit union professionals into its International Executive Volunteer Corps (IEVC).

The IEVC recognizes industry leaders for their dedication to international credit union development and volunteer service with WOCCU.

"World Council volunteers are vital to international credit union development and to building a global community," said Brian Branch, WOCCU president/CEO. "Partner credit union movements receive tailored, one-on-one training in critical areas. At the same time, seasoned professionals who lend their expertise bring a unique international perspective back to their credit unions."

The new IEVC members are:

  • Joe Bergeron, president/CEO, Association of Vermont Credit Unions, partnership with  Federacion Nacional de Cooperativas de Ahorro y Credito del Peru;
  • Alan Cameron, president/ CEO, Idaho Credit Union League and Affiliates, former partnership with Solomon Islands Credit Union League;
  • Mark Cummins, president/CEO, Minnesota Credit Union Network, partnership with Central de Cooperativas del Area Nacional (Paraguay);
  • Rob Kimmett, vice president-public relations, Massachusetts Credit Union League, partnership with Bahamas Co-operative League;
  • Tom Liebe, vice president-governmental affairs, Wisconsin Credit Union League, partnership with Asociacion de Instituciones Rurales de Ahorro y Credito (Dominican Republic);
  • Dick Nesvold, president/CEO, SouthPoint FCU, Sleepy Eye, Minn., in conjunction with Minnesota Credit Union Network partnership with Central de Cooperativas del Area Nacional (Paraguay);
  • David Southall, president/CEO, Innovations FCU, Panama City, Fla.; in conjunction with League of Southeastern Credit Unions & Affiliates partnership with Federacion de Cooperativas de Ahorro y Credito de Costa Rica;
  • Brett Thompson, president/CEO, Wisconsin Credit Union League,  partnership with Asociación de Instituciones Rurales de Ahorro y Crédito (Dominican Republic); and
  • Kristina Wright, vice president-association services, Minnesota Credit Union Network, partnership with Central de Cooperativas del Area Nacional (Paraguay).
IEVC members are affiliated with WOCCU's volunteer activities and International Partnerships Program, which formalizes credit union movement partnerships throughout the world to share best practices in operations and product development.

Inductees have demonstrated at least a three-year commitment to furthering  WOCCU's international credit union development efforts. Each has engaged in two or more volunteer assignments abroad. IEVC members must have hosted at least four international credit union professionals at their individual credit unions within the previous two years. The achievements of this year's inductees span six countries.

For more information about WOCCU's International Partnerships Program, and to view a complete list of IEVC members, use the links.

CU flashlight guides family in Italian earthquake

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (12/27/12)--A flashlight from a Pennsylvania-based credit union, a gift to a 6-year-old, saved the day for a family stationed in Italy during an earthquake earlier this year.

The Mercer County Community FCU (MCCFCU), a $65.6 million asset credit union based in Hermitage, Pa., learned of the incident from a member, Connie George, whose family is stationed in Italy, said the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association (Life is a Highway Dec. 18).

Richard and Kelly George Blagg and their family were awakened early one morning when their house in Ferrara, Italy, began shaking, said PCUA. Outside it sounded like bombs going off and glass breaking. The area was experiencing an earthquake.

The power was out, and the family had difficulty finding their way through the house. However, 6-year-old Titus reached under his pillow for his MCCFCU flashlight he had received as a gift.

The flashlight helped guide them through the house as they found their passports and important items before going outside to safety. 

When the quake subsided, their house was still standing, but in need of some cleaning, said PCUA.