Frustrated Robbers Pour Gas, Light Fire

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Guidance Church of Religious Science FCU, a small CU with just 131 members and $432,000 in assets, suffered extensive damage to its office from arson.

On Jan. 30, at approximately 6:30 p.m. PST, an unknown number of would-be thieves broke into the CU's office. Angel Williams, the manager of GCRSFCU, told The Credit Union Journal the office is inside a building on church property. The person or persons who broke in managed to open the credit union's safe by breaking the handle. However, the safe contained no money. "We had about $500 in food stamps in there that we give to our needy members," explained Williams.

Unable to find cash, the suspects poured gasoline around the office and set the premises on fire. A neighbor saw smoke and called the fire department, and fire fighters were able to save the church.

Williams said GCRSFCU lost all of its office equipment- approximately $17,000 worth-including two personal computers, three printers, a copy machine, a fax machine, two desks, two chairs and two bookcases. A file cabinet holding member information was severely damaged and will need to be replaced, but the papers within were legible, albeit scorched.

"Luckily, no one was hurt," said Williams.

The credit union is scrambling to continue offering service to its members. The CU is using another office on church property, and hand-totaled information is being stored on a back-up computer in the home of one of its board members.

The credit union community is rallying behind GCRSFCU to help it survive this crime.

In addition, the Shapiro Group, a California CU League program that provides assistance to smaller league-member CUs, was attempting to procure temporary computers GCRSFCU could use. Kim Bannan, league vice president for CU development, said GCRSFCU had an outstanding grant approval to purchase new computer equipment.

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