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Scam suspect nabbed via his Facebook page

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SEATTLE (10/15/09)--A man suspected of conning Seattle banks and credit unions is in a Mexico City jail awaiting extradition to the U.S. after he did two things that helped nab him. He posted Facebook updates about his partying lifestyle while on the lam, and added a former Justice Department official to his list of "friends." Maxi Sopo, 26, a native of Cameroon, was a fugitive enjoying the beaches of Cancun by day and partying at clubs at night, according to several press reports (Associated Press via Google.com Oct. 13). The Justice Department acquaintance had met Sopo at a local club. Investigators recognized the name and contacted the official for help in locating and capturing Sopo. Federal prosecutors say he and an associate, Edward Asatoorians, falsely obtained more than $200,000 from Seattle-area credit unions and banks. Asatoorians was convicted by a federal jury in Seattle last week. According to court records, the pair persuaded young co-conspirators to lie about their income to obtain loans for fabricated auto purchases and then used the money to prop up Asatoorians' business and take expensive trips. Asatoorians faces up to five years in prison, and Sopo could face up to 30 years.

CU Student Choice to address bankers on student loans

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WASHINGTON (10/15/09)--Serving as testimony to the expanding role and increasing influence of credit unions in private student lending, Credit Union Student Choice President Jon Jeffreys will be a speaker at the Consumer Bankers Association's (CBA) Student Lending Conference in December. During a joint session with representatives from other industry leaders, Jeffreys will address the future of private student lending market and the successful entry of credit unions into the market. Since launching 17 months ago, Credit Union Student Choice has helped nearly 90 credit unions from across the country enter the private student lending market, Jeffreys said. "By leveraging their balance-sheet lending capability and focusing on economic value, these credit unions have helped nearly 10,000 students attend college at a time of critical need," he said in a press release Tuesday. Jeffreys said the conference provides an important venue for educating the industry on credit unions and their unique differences. "The student lending and higher education industries are beginning to take note of the positive impact that credit unions are having on this market," said Jeffreys. "I look forward to sharing our vision and explaining how credit unions will redefine value in private student lending." The CBA Student Lending Conference will be Dec. 9-11 in Washington, D.C. It provides guidance on key legislative, regulatory and business issues affecting the student lending industry.

CUNA CUs celebrating choice on ICU Day

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MADISON, Wis. (10/15/09)--This year’s International Credit Union Day theme--Your Money. Your Choice. Your Credit Union--celebrates choice, which is what gave birth to the credit union as a not-for profit, cooperative alternative to for-profit, investor-owned banks, according to Credit Union National Association President/CEO Dan Mica. Today is ICU Day. It has been celebrated on the third Thursday of October since 1948 to celebrate what credit unions do to improve their members’ financial well-being, Mica said. “Whether it is opening that first account for a child, arranging financing on a used car, making a small-business loan, holding a seminar on improving credit scores or opening a branch in a community without financial services, credit unions play a role in changing lives,” he added. “As we celebrate International Credit Union Day, we recommit to the credit union spirit of unity and service to members,” Mica said. “We also look to spread the credit union idea to the millions in the U.S. and abroad who are yet unfamiliar with our philosophy and benefits so that they may discover what millions already know: When you are a member, it really is your credit union.” On ICU Day, credit unions are recommitting to the credit union spirit of unity and service to members and spreading the credit union philosophy to those in the U.S. and overseas. The World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) is kicking off its celebration with a “Celebrating Our Heritage” webinar, led by WOCCU President/CEO Pete Crear. The webinar takes place at 2 p.m. EDT today. “The role credit unions play has gained even greater importance this past year in light of the global financial crisis, which continues to negatively affect our members worldwide,” said Barry Jolette, WOCCU chair. “The strength and empowerment that comes through cooperative financial ownership cannot be underestimated, making credit union access more critical to members than ever before.” Jolette also echoed Mica’s thoughts about the importance of choice. “On ICU Day and every day, credit union involvement is a choice we have made,” he said. “It remains the responsibility of each of us to make sure the world understands the value of credit unions so that next year, even more people will be served by credit unions.”
Click to view larger image In the Florida governor’s office to witness the International Credit Union Day proclamation signing were, (from left) Andy Price, League of Southeastern Credit Unions (LSCU); Amy Jowers and Justin Thames, LSCU; Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum; Ray Cromer, Envision CU; Cecilia Homison, Florida Commerce CU; Florida Gov. Charlie Crist; Patrick La Pine, LSCU president/CEO; Aletta Shutes, former Florida Credit Union League executive vice president; Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink; Guy Hood, former league president/CEO; Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Charles Bronson; Sandra Hood; Mark Landreth, LSCU and Cassandra Grayson, LSCU; and Mary Estes, Florida Commerce CU. (Photo provided by the League of Southeastern Credit Unions)
Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire proclaimed today as Credit Union Day in the state to celebrate the 75th year of the Washington Credit Union League. This is the fifth consecutive year the governor has proclaimed ICU Day as Credit Union Day. Several credit unions, including O Bee CU in Tumwater and Evergreen Direct CU in Olympia, also are participating in a contest that honors the 75,000th new credit union member with gift certificates and prizes. More than 67,000 Washingtonians joined credit unions by the end of June, and 75,000th person is expected to join during the remainder of the year (The Olympian Oct. 13). The Maryland and District of Columbia Credit Union Association is hosting a reception today at Credit Union House in Washington, D.C., with guest speakers including National Credit Union Administration board member Gigi Hyland and Mica. The association also will celebrate its international partnerships with the United Kingdom and Nicaraguan credit union movements (Focus newsletter Oct. 12). BECU, Tukwila, Wash., is reaching out to college students this week by teaching them how to manage their finances and avoid scams. The BECU Mobile Financial Center will lead the “GO BECU Tour” with visits to four college campuses around Puget Sound, Wash., to teach students about money. The average college student graduates with between $3,000 and $4,000 in credit card debt, according to the credit union. “The ‘Go BECU Tour’ is about making sure students know their options and understand how to navigate the confusing financial landscape,” said Gary Oakland, BECU CEO. Alabama and Florida state government declared today as ICU Day. The League of Southeastern Credit Unions (LSCU), in honor of its Alabama and Florida member credit unions, created a proclamation that recognized accomplishments of the credit union movement, and submitted it for signature to the governors of both states. “We at LSCU wanted to highlight in a public way the many reasons why people choose credit unions for access to fair and affordable financial services,” said Patrick La Pine, president/CEO of LSCU. “Credit union members reap the benefits of doing business with a financial institution they own--one focused on service to its members, not profits for its stockholders. That means value, service, respect, and the opportunity to be part of a financially sound and socially responsible institution.” In Alabama, Gov. Bob Riley signed the proclamation. In Florida, Gov. Charlie Crist and members of the Florida Cabinet signed and presented the proclamation at a Sept. 29 cabinet meeting. Retired Florida league leaders Guy M. Hood, former president/CEO, and Aletta Shutes, former executive vice president, were also honored for their many contributions to the credit union movement. Both retired from the league in August and July, respectively.

Alabama regulator hires CEO for Mutual Savings CU

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (10/15/09)--The Alabama Credit Union Administration (ACUA) has announced a new CEO for Mutual Savings CU, a Birmingham-based credit union that was placed into conservatorship in July after several loan losses. Douglas Key, the founding owner of law firm of Key Greer Frawley Key & Harrison, plans to transition out of his law practice and assume the CEO responsibilities of the credit union (Birmingham Business Journal Oct. 14 ). Glenn Latham, administrator of ACUA, said Douglas and a seasoned staff will work to lead the credit union back to a healthy and growing state (The Birmingham News Oct. 13). Key has worked with credit unions in various roles for more than 35 years, said Latham. State regulators seized control of the $193 million asset credit union on July 31, saying its former leaders misrepresented the credit union's financial condition in regulatory filings. Former CEO Dale Dalbey and several board members ousted during the conservatorship action are seeking an injunction against the takeover in Shelby County Circuit Court. A hearing on the issue is set for Oct. 26.

Rep. Cleaver meets with Kansas City CUs on CFPA

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KANSAS CITY (10/15/09)--U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-5) of Missouri asked for credit union input on the Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA) legislation during a meeting in Kansas City on Tuesday. Ten credit union leaders and several bank professionals took part in the event, according to the Missouri Credit Union Association (MCUA). Credit unions requested two changes. First, to allow the National Credit Union Administration or the Missouri Division of Credit Unions to examine credit unions for compliance and carry out enforcement of the regulations. Second, that CFPA pre-empt state laws on consumer protection to lessen the burden of keeping up with laws and regulations in multiple states (The Missouri difference Oct. 14). Bank representatives asked for a carve-out for community banks and for current consumer regulations, but Cleaver said that would not be possible. He said he expects the CFPA legislation could pass before year-end. “Your high school teacher might have told you that 80% of everything is showing up, and that holds true for politics,” said Peggy Nalls, senior vice president of public/legislative affairs for MCUA. “We showed up and the congressman gave us over an hour and a half of his time and attention to discuss our issues regarding the CFPA legislation. Cleaver also requested a separate meeting with credit unions to discuss interchange fees. MCUA said it will provide more information to its member credit unions as soon as possible.

SECU piles on another 25 million for student loans

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RALEIGH, N.C. (10/15/09)--State Employees’ CU (SECU) invested $1.6 billion of members’ funds in North Carolina student loan bonds during the past year. The bonds helped the North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority (SEAA) and College Foundation, Inc. (CFI) make education loans available to North Carolina students and parents. The credit union has committed an additional $25 million pool of funds to help meet the greater demand for student loans for this school year. “We are grateful that SECU stepped up to help make money available, and we also appreciate its genuine interest in helping educate families about the best ways to pay for college,” said Steve Brooks, SEAA executive director. “Families need to understand the college financial aid process and how to find available federal and state scholarships, grants and low-cost federal loans before they consider other options. They also need a solid foundation in financial literacy to make good choices.” “SECU firmly believes that helping North Carolinians get an education is one of the best and most important investments we can make,” said Mike Lord, SECU senior vice president of finance and accounting. “Education opens up opportunities for individuals to increase their incomes and improve the quality of their lives. We support the College Foundation of North Carolina (CFNC) effort to help North Carolina families ‘plan, apply and pay for college.’” The two North Carolina private, nonprofit financial institutions and SEAA also are planning for SECU to help families with questions on completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Students and parents must complete a FAFSA form to be considered for federal and state aid for college. SECU will help CFNC and the North Carolina Association of Financial Aid Administrators offer FAFSA Day at sites statewide in February. SECU, based in Raleigh, N.C., has $16.7 billion in assets.

Matchsavings.org ICU Day donations help rural poor

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MADISON, Wis. (10/15/09)--MatchSavings.org, an online matched savings program launched earlier this year by the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU), will participate in America’s Giving Challenge to help the rural poor in Mexico for International Credit Union (ICU) Day.
Click to view larger image Lucrecia Alejo Morales joined the MatchSavings.com program to replace the leaky cardboard roof on her one-room home. (Photo provided by the World Council of Credit Unions)
The program, MatchSavings.org, could net up to $50,000 based on the number of daily donations made to MatchSavings.org before Nov. 6. The challenge starts today on social networking site Facebook. The cause with the highest total number of daily donations will receive $50,000, and $25,000 will go to the second-place winner. The next five causes will receive $10,000 each. There will be two daily awards of $1,000 and $500 going to the causes with the first and second most unique donations on any day of the challenge. “It would be an outstanding achievement for this program if we could see as many credit union people as possible from all over the world supporting MatchSavings.org on ICU Day,” said Brian Branch, WOCCU executive vice president and chief operating officer. “It is a great opportunity to leverage funds through social networks that can help even more people living in poverty begin to save for the first time. We can’t afford to let that opportunity pass us by.” MatchSavings.org recently completed its pilot phase, in which 117 rural savers became new members of Caja Yanga CU in Mexico's Veracruz state. Savers made six set monthly deposits for a particular savings goal. The amount was later matched to help them with housing, microbusiness, education or healthcare. Of the 120 participating savers, 83% had never used formal financial services, 98% completed the program and 99% continue to save even after the program has ended. “I never saved money, but the program has shown me how to save for the future and teach my children how to save as well,” said participant Guadalupe Jazmín, who saved funds for additional therapy sessions for her daughter with special needs. “Unfortunately, no one knows what will happen tomorrow, but this way my children will understand that through savings, they can depend upon themselves.” With the pilot phase complete, 120 new first-time savers from eight communities in Veracruz state begin the MatchSavings.org program today. Savers will select savings goals and be required to save 900 pesos--or $70--over six months, an amount to be matched by donations received through MatchSavings.org and the Facebook cause. Once the savers have completed the requirement, they can use their funds in addition to the matching amount pledged by online givers to achieve their goals.

CU System briefs (10/14/2009)

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* MADISON, Wis. (10/15/09)--Madison, Wis.-based Summit CU offered congratulations on the Credit Union National Association's
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(CUNA's) 75th year--in the form of cookies. Jeremiah Gollon, Summit CU business development manager, delivered boxes of cookies Wednesday to CUNA's Madison staff and a bouquet style basket of cookies presented to CUNA's executive team. From left are Harley Skjervem, CUNA senior vice president of human resources and facilities; Terry Costin, CUNA senior vice president of sales and marketing; Gollon; John Franklin, CUNA executive vice president and chief operating officer; and Mark Condon, CUNA senior vice president of business and consumer publishing. Summit was formerly CUNA CU. (Photo provided by CUNA) … * ALBANY, N.Y. (10/15/09)--Niagara County's FCU, based in Lockport,
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N.Y., was presented the 2009 Ralph W. Hillman Marketing Award from Universal Sharing Network Inc. (UsNet). The award recognizes a participating UsNet credit union for best exemplifying the spirit and enthusiasm of Hillman, a former chairman of the board at UsNet and a board member since 1998. The credit union "consistently promoted the network to its members via its website, printed materials and newsletter throughout the year, emphasizing the convenience and accessibility of shared branching," said Marc Inger, UsNet chief operating officer. Pictured during the award presentation are from left: Paul Roman, chairman of the board at The $40 million asset Niagara County's FCU, and Inger. (Photo provided by Universal Sharing Network) … * MILFORD, Conn. (10/15/09)--Sikorsky Financial CU has been held up twice within the past two weeks. The latest robbery occurred Tuesday during the lunch hour when three armed men entered the credit union through the rear door. One approached tellers and demanded money while another went into an office and ordered an employee to lie on the floor. The robber took money from the employee before the three fled in a car. No one was injured, but one employee was treated at a hospital for complications from a pre-existing medical condition. On Sept. 28, a lone male held up the branch. Police have not ruled out a connection between the two incidents (Connecticut Post Oct. 13 and The New Haven Register) …. * BROCKTON, Mass. (10/15/09)--Although location, location, location is touted as a way to attract members, location also can attract robberies, says a Brockton, Mass., detective. Crescent CU's branch located on West Chestnut St., Brockton, Mass., has been robbed four times since April, and police said the location may appeal to robbers. The latest robbery occurred Tuesday morning when an unarmed man gave the teller a note, then demanded it back. The branch is located outside the center of the city and within easy access to Route 24--two factors appealing to thieves--and the area has lots of vehicless and few pedestrians, said police. The credit union was also robbed on April 15, April 28, and July 22. One man has been charged with the April holdups and another for the July heist. (wickedlocal.com Oct. 14) … * RUSK, Texas (10/15/09)--Southern Cherokee FCU, a $30 million asset credit union in Rusk, Texas, says it will be getting a new name--Cherokee County FCU--as part of its new charter. The charter will expand the credit union's services to those who work, live or worship in the entire Cherokee County. Before the new charter, it served only those in the southern part of the county. The credit union was established 50 years ago to serve employees at Rusk State Hospital. It has 4,700 members (Cherokeean Herald Oct. 14) …

Two presidential speechwriters laud CUs

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FREEPORT, Maine (10/15/09)--The Maine Credit Union League’s Annual Legislative Forum this year marked its 15th annual forum with two former presidential speechwriters who were involved in some of the 20th century’s most historic events.
Click to view larger image Attending the Maine Credit Union League’s 15th Annual Legislative Forum were, from left: John Murphy, league president; Mark Davis, senior director of The White House Writers Group and former speechwriter for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush; Ted Sorensen, special counsel and speechwriter for President John F. Kennedy; and Quincy Hentzel, league director of governmental affairs. Standing in back is Jon Paradise, league governmental and public affairs manager. (Photo provided by the Maine Credit Union League)
Keynote speaker Theodore “Ted” Sorensen, special counsel and speechwriter to President John F. Kennedy (JFK), provided the audience a glimpse into policymaking and communicating at the highest levels of government. In his address, Sorensen reiterated the importance of “being involved in politics and causes and understanding that words do matter. I applaud all of the credit union representatives for being part of a strong movement,” he said. “It was truly a rare opportunity to hear and learn about history from someone who was part of it,” said John Murphy, league president. “Mr. Sorensen has led a fascinating life and his ability to recall days and dates of events in history--from the Cuban missile crisis to civil rights to the tragedies in the Kennedy family--was remarkable and a once-in-a-lifetime experience for attendees. They seemed to hang on Sorensen’s every word as he explained and recalled his part in such historical events as the Cuban Missile Crisis--the closest we have ever come, before or since, to nuclear war in the history of the world.” Sorensen also shed light on some of JFK’s most memorable speeches including the 1961 Inaugural Address, the Cuban Missile Crisis and Civil Rights. “While I have done a great deal of work with world leaders, business and global initiatives since I left The White House in 1964, I have no doubt that the headline of my obituary will read: ‘Ted Sorensen, JFK's speechwriter’,” Sorensen said. “And you know what, I’m comfortable if that is how I am most remembered.” Sorensen was not the only presidential speechwriter at this year’s forum. Mark Davis, who wrote speeches for President Ronald Reagan and served as the chief speechwriter on foreign policy, including several speeches on the collapse of communism and the first Gulf War, for President George H.W. Bush, headlined the afternoon portion of the forum. Davis focused not only on how he approached writing for presidents, but also shared tips and advice for anyone writing and giving a speech. Davis also referenced how proud credit unions should be for being a source of strength during difficult economic times.