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Suspects used Web to gather info for robbery attempt

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SAVANNAH, Ga. (7/31/08)--Two Savannah, Ga., men were convicted last week in a U.S. District Court of conspiring to rob a credit union after surfing Internet websites of credit unions and banks located in the Savannah area. Donald Floyd Brown and Charon Garray Fields, both 31, were arrested just outside the front doors of Memorial Health CU in Savannah on Sept. 25, 2007, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI's) Atlanta office (US Fed News July 23). Police SWAT team members found a loaded pistol in Fields' waistband and several shotgun shells and a camouflage mask in his pocket. Brown had a matching mask in his pocket. Their van had two loaded shotguns, one of them sawed off. A forensics examination of a computer from Fields' home revealed numerous visits on the morning of the attempted robbery to Internet websites of banks and credit unions in the areas, the FBI said. The visits included Web pages that displayed photographs and biographies of the financial institutions' employees--from the president to the tellers. In addition to the conspiracy charges, the two men were convicted of attempting to rob the credit union and possessing an unregistered short-barreled shotgun. Brown also was convicted of possessing a firearm by a convicted felon. The two men face a maximum of 35 years in prison and a maximum $250,000 fine. Sentencing has not been scheduled yet.

Seattle Metropolitan CU rolls out green loans

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SEATTLE (7/31/08)--Seattle Metropolitan CU (SMCU) announced the launch of its Green Loans program, which offers discounts on auto loans for fuel-efficient vehicles, home loans for certified green homes and equity loans for energy efficiency upgrades. The $480.2 million-asset, Seattle-based SMCU’s program is the most recent chapter of its ongoing “Seven [Rochedale] Principles” [the foundation upon which all modern cooperatives are based] initiative. “Green Loans, like our new Feel Good checking account, are part of the Seven Principles that guide our business and are the foundation of all co-ops,” said Bob Harvey, SMCU president/CEO. “The seventh cooperative principle states that you must give back to the community in which you do business. “Showing concern for our environment and partnering with other nonprofits in our area are just two ways that we and our members are doing our part,” he added. The three new SMCU loan products include:
* Green Auto Loans--which provide rate discounts for hybrid-electric, gas or diesel-powered automobiles that average 25 city miles per gallon or greater; * Green Home Equity Loan--which discounts rates on loans for qualifying home improvements; and * Green Home financing--which discounts closing costs for certified built green homes.
The credit union, which celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, commemorated the rollout of its new eco-friendly loan products through a partnership with the Arbor Day Foundation to plant trees where they are needed most. As part of the commemoration, SMCU also introduced: a green-themed website design, a 35-foot tall colorful Green Loans banner made from recyclable materials displayed at its headquarters, and a free shopping bag giveaway for all members who adopt paper-free electronic statements--“eStatements.” “Seattle is not alone in its commitment to take concrete actions to reduce waste and protect the environment,” Harvey said. “We are proud to serve a community that embraces these eco-friendly initiatives, as we are encouraged to see green practices as part of a growing trend that is spreading around the world.”

CUs on the Tube MECU posts outreach videos

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BALTIMORE (7/31/08)--MECU of Baltimore is broadcasting its commitment to community service through videos on YouTube. The credit union recently uploaded eight videos to its channel, www.youtube.com/mecutv, of employees working on community service projects such as Habitat for Humanity and with youth at a local elementary school. “We do a lot of outreach and give back to the community,” Dorothea Stierhoff, MECU senior public affairs specialist, told News Now. “What better way to show what our people do and the faces of people involved?” “Giving back to the community is a vital part of our mission at MECU,” said Bert J. Hash, MECU president/CEO. “I often talk about the commitment of our employees--our team members. With this series of videos, now other people can see for themselves why I’m so proud of what our MECU team accomplishes.” MECU hopes to start driving more traffic to the videos, and attract more people to the credit union movement. The organizations MECU works with have been “very pleased” with the videos, Stierhoff added. “So far, the Habitat for Humanity video has been the most popular,” she said. The credit union has always been involved in the community, and the YouTube videos “document” the projects and “give a feel for what we do,” Stierhoff added. Next month, MECU hopes to make videos of its financial education workshops to place on YouTube. “People who have a hard time getting to the workshops can view them through our website,” she said. “It’s a way to get more financial education out there.” To see the videos, use the link.

Pa. foundation names new vice chair approves 14 grants

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (7/31/08)--The Pennsylvania Credit Union Foundation named a new officer and approved 14 grants at the foundation’s summer board meeting July 24.
From left: Dave Ackerman, vice chairman of the Pennsylvania Credit Union Foundation, and Joe Wambach, foundation executive director, accept a contribution from the Enterprise Rent-A-Car Foundation. Representatives from Enterprise Car Sales making the presentation are Laura Heintzelman and Lisa Regalski, car sales marketing managers, and Tiffany Walenchok and Kaushika Kansara, group marketing managers. (Photo provided by the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association)
Dave Ackerman, CEO of USX FCU, Cranberry Township, Pa., was appointed vice chairman of the foundation. Ackerman replaces Bob Marquette, CEO, Members First FCU, Mechanicsburg, who recently completed service on the foundation board (Life is a Highway July 30). Also elected to one-year terms were board Secretary Jim McAneney, CEO, Philadelphia FCU; and board Treasurer George West, director and treasurer, Pennsylvania State Employees CU, Harrisburg. The board also approved 14 grants valued at $54,000. Eleven of the 14 grants went to individual credit unions. Of the other three grants, one went to a consortium of credit unions, one went to the World Council of Credit Unions, and one went to the National Youth Involvement Board to sponsor financial literacy at its annual conference. Of the $54,000 awarded, more than $35,000 went to financial literacy efforts. Four individuals from Enterprise Car Sales, a division of Enterprise Rent-A-Car, attended the meeting to participate in the presentation of a $7,500 contribution to the foundation. The four cited the work of their foundation, which assists community philanthropic endeavors by its Pennsylvania credit union partners. It has provided ongoing support of tsunami and Hurricane Katrina victims.

Ohio CUs build biz relationships as banks report losses

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DAYTON, Ohio (7/31/08)--While banks continue reporting losses, credit unions continue to build business relationships, according to the Ohio Credit Union League. Credit unions largely have been unaffected by the current economic climate, Patrick Harris, league media relations director, told the Dayton Daily News Sunday. The league and eight credit unions in Ohio formed Cooperative Business Services (CBS) in 2003, which helps the credit unions share resources, loan services and funding. The cooperative also creates products and services for the small business community, Keith Reed, CBS president, told the newspaper. The number of small business members in the state has grown since CBS was created. Credit unions’ structure can offer more to individual and business members, added Bill Burke, president/CEO, DayAir CU, Kettering, Ohio. Donna Hale, Wright-Patt CU, Fairborn, Ohio, said small business owners are opening accounts because they’re satisfied with credit unions and are telling their friends.

CU System briefs (07/30/2008)

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* TEMPE, Ariz. (7/31/08)--Altier CU is promoting the chance to win free gas for a year to those who open a checking account at the credit union between now and Sept. 15. The grand prize winner gets $3,000 or enough gas for a year. The $3,000 will buy 750 gallons at $4 a gallon--or 14 gallons a week for 52 weeks. Two second-chance winners will take home $300 and $200, says the Tempe, Ariz.-based credit union's website. Altier CU has $188.5 million in assets … * PEARL RIVER, N. Y. (7/31/08)--Palisades FCU, based in Pearl River, N.Y., and the New York Credit Union Foundation teamed with the Cornell Cooperative Extension to educate high school teachers on improving the way they teach financial education in the classroom. They sponsored the July 14 event, which emphasized the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE) and Working in Support of Education (IWSE) High School Financial Planning Program. Palisades is a $139.2 million asset credit union based in Pearl River … * COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (7/31/08)--Ent FCU swept seven categories in the "best in the industry awards" during voting by readers of the Colorado Springs Business Journal. This year, 47,249 votes were cast in 98 categories. Ent was recognized as "the best" in categories for Best Credit Union, Best Commercial Lender, and Best Local Ad Campaign (for the credit union's 50th anniversary). The $2.4 billion asset, Colorado Springs-based credit union also was runner-up in Best Large Company With The Most Promising Future; Best Business to Support a Local Charity; and Best Business Bank. Ent President/CEO Charles Emmer was named runner-up for Best Local CEO … * LANSING, Mich. (7/31/08)--NuUnion CU, based in Lansing, Mich., donated to local charities more than 100 usable items from the former Regent Inn, which it will demolish and redevelop. Items including beds, dressers, lamps, mirrors, appliances, an HVAC unit, televisions and sinks will benefit local non-profits Volunteers of America, Haven House, and Capital Area Child and Family Services. Demolition of the hotel, a community eyesore and location for criminal activity, will begin after the credit union receives final approval from the state. Redevelopment is made possible through use of incentives through Michigan Brownfield Program. NuUnion worked closely with the Lansing Economic Development Corp. The $795 million asset credit union said the redevelopment will be challenging because it involves demolition, underground contaminants, drainage rerouting and asbestos removal … * HARRISBURG, Pa. (7/31/08)--Clearview FCU, a $600 million asset credit union based in Moon Township, Pa., has partnered with Cricket Wireless to sponsor a visit by the Declaration of Independence to Pittsburgh this week (Life is a Highway July 30). The document is one of 25 surviving Dunlap broadside copies printed on the night of July 4, 1776. It will be on display at the Carnegie Science Center Aug. 1-2. During the event, Clearview will sponsor a booth encouraging attendees to make "Get Out To Vote" buttons. The credit union and Cricket Wireless also will give away tickets to a private viewing of the document … * ROCKLEDGE, Fla. (7/31/08)--Brevard County (Fla.) Sheriff's deputies were looking for a couple who robbed a credit union while a child was in the getaway vehicle. The credit union was a Titusville branch of Rockledge-based Community Educators CU. The couple drove a white car. No weapon was displayed during the incident, which occurred after noon Tuesday (FloridaToday.com July 29) …

Bolivian leaders visit partners in Ohio

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DUBLIN, Ohio (7/31/08)--Bolivian credit union and bank leaders visited the Ohio Credit Union League on Monday as part of a continuing partnership among the league, Corporate One FCU (Corporate One) and the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU).
Click to view larger imageOhio Credit Union League staff met with credit union and bank leaders from Bolivia during a visit sponsored by the World Council of Credit Unions. (Photo provided by the Ohio Credit Union League)
League staff briefed their guests through an interpreter on services they provide to the 427 credit unions in Ohio and on the impact of state and federal regulations on not-for- profit financial institutions in the U.S. “The U.S. Agency for International Development is funding WOCCU to carry out a three-year financial sector support program in Bolivia,” said Victor Corro, who heads WOCCU’s International Partnerships Program. “The program aims to improve the economic and social well-being of the rural population in underserved areas by connecting various microfinance institutions onto the credit union-owned share branching network and uniting them into an association to advocate for an effective regulatory environment in Bolivia,” he continued. Although located on two different continents, league officials and members of the Bolivian contingent realized that the issues facing their respective financial institutions are similar in many ways, but also different. Discussions surrounding deposit insurance revealed that Bolivian financial institutions are federally insured up to U.S. $5,000 and that they must ascertain a certain asset amount to garner federal insurance. One service of particular interest to the foreign contingent was shared branching and the technology needed to become a credit union service center. Both groups discussed capitalization levels, including what level is considered adequately capitalized and how that is monitored in their respective regions. Bolivian officials also shared how foreign federal legislation, such as the USA Patriot Act, has impacted their operations. “This was a unique opportunity to learn from each other and share best practices,” said league President Paul Mercer. “It was truly educational, and although there was a language barrier, we all speak the same language when it comes to serving our members in the best possible way.” Both sides agreed to continue the discussion in the future, possibly during a visit of Ohio leaders to Bolivia. During its visit to the U.S., the group also will meet with representatives from Western CU, Columbus, Ohio; CES CU, Mount Vernon, Ohio; and Corporate One FCU. Kelly Schermerhorn, CEO, CES CU, and Kurt Lykens of Corporate One previously visited Bolivia as part of a WOCCU delegation. The Bolivian group also will travel to Washington, D.C., to meet with the National Association of State Credit Union Supervisors. Participating in the meeting from Bolivia were Fernando Prado, executive secretary of ASOFIN, which specializes in micro financing; Reynaldo Marconi, general manager of FINRURAL, an association of financial institutions serving rural populations; Marcelo Montero, executive secretary of ASOBAN, as association of private bankers in Bolivia; Vittorio Valdez Rocha, president of the ATC, a technical association representing 13 credit unions; Antonio Kierig, executive secretary of UNIVIV; and Rolando Salazar, project director of WOCCU-Bolivia, and Thom Belekevich, a WOCCU consultant.