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5 Indicted In Indirect Loan Scheme

DENVER-Executives at two local car dealerships and a former employee at CU Member Lending were charged in a grand indictment with obtaining more than $400,000 from two credit unions by forging customer credit bureau reports, raising credit scores, deleting poor credit lines and adding positive credit lines.

The executives at Bullwinkle's Auto Inc. and Hollywood Auto Sales Inc., allegedly bribed Carl Markgraf, who worked for the indirect auto lender, to send all but one of the fraudulent loan packets to New Horizons Community CU, with the other one going to Bellco Federal Credit Union.

The indictment, a copy of which was obtained by The Credit Union Journal, charges the executives knew these customers would not qualify for financing through CUML so they agreed to pay Markgraf a fee for each loan he got approved by the credit unions.

Also named in the indictment were: Pete Eliott, Jr., operator of Bullwinkle; Clair Martin, the dealer's finance director; Abdul "Shawn" Masad, owner of Hollywood Auto; and Steven Stroud manager of the dealer's downtown Denver location.

The scheme is believed to have cost as much as $100,000 in losses to the credit unions.

Two Plead Guilty To ATM Thefts

GROVES, Texas-Two local men agreed to plead guilty to pilfering credit union ATMs holding almost $115,000 in cash in two different incidents last year.

The two were arrested last June after one of them was caught transporting an ATM from Gulf Employees CU in Beaumont on the back of a flatbed trailer.

The two, identified as Donald Pifer, Jr., 30, and Charles Cody, 32, had also stolen an ATM from Texaco Comunity FCU in Port Arthur the month before.

That cash machine was found floating in a canal near Highway 73 with $54,000 missing. The two men, each convicted on two counts of theft, face up to 10 years in jail when they are sentenced.

Paragon FCU Opens New HQ

MONTVALE, N.J.-Members of Paragon FCU will have all the advantages of the modern age of financial technology in the credit union's glistening new headquarters.

Situated at 100 Paragon Dr.-named so long before the credit union's move from nearby Westwood-the 100,000 square-foot offices feature all the trappings of a modern financial services provider-high-tech teller stations, flat screen video panels, as well as amenities like an Internet cafe and children's play area.

The $400-million credit union, chartered in 1936 by a group of local teachers, spent more than $17 million for its new digs, where it will house some of its far-flung operations, like ATM sales, loan participation brokering, and the soon-to-debut check cashing.

Manager Convicted Of Looting ATM

FAIRFIELD, Conn.-A former branch manager for General Electric Employees Federal Credit Union here was led away in tears after a superior court jury convicted her of stealing almost $22,000 from the branch ATM.

Olga Villafane burst into tears as the jury foreman announced a verdict of guilty to charges of first-degree larceny by embezzlement.

Prosecutors said Villafane looted the machine across the hall from the credit union branch at General Electric Employees Federal Credit Union headquarters here.

Woman Assumed Nine Aliases

ALBANY, N.Y.-A bold three-year identity scheme ended when a 24-year-old local woman confessed to using nine different aliases to defraud retailers, landlords and several credit unions out of $63,000.

Shaquana Wright pleaded guilty to one count of first degree scheme to defraud, four counts of first-degree identity theft and one count of third-degree money laundering.

Wright used false credentials to create checking accounts at a number of financial institutions, including Sunmark Federal Credit Union, State Employees Federal Credit Union, Charter One Bank, TrustCo and KeyBank.

Upon opening the accounts, Wright then would write checks from one assumed identity to another and cash the check with an appropriate identification.

Wright was also known as Natalie Lewis, Shaquana Turner, Shameeka Chaney-Artis, Mikiya Orr, Virginia Carolyn Medley and Tiffani Poindexter, among other identities.

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