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Canadian Mega-Merger Approved

ONTARIO, Canada-The provincial Financial Services Commission of Ontario has approved the combination of Niagara CU and Hepcoe CU, creating the province's biggest and the country's third-biggest credit union with $3.5 billion (Canadian) in assets.

The regulatory approval clears the way for a vote by members of both institutions, scheduled for next month.

The merger must also be approved by the Ontario Minister of Finance and the Federal Competition Bureau.

The new credit union will be known as Meridian CU and will be headquartered in St. Catherines, while the corporate office will be located in downtown Toronto.

Drug Funds Laundered Through CUs

NORFOLK, Va.-More than 20 suspects were charged in connection with a multi-state drug ring that laundered as much as $20 million in proceeds through local credit unions and banks.

Among the credit unions used to launder proceeds from the sale of cocaine, crack and marijuana between 1996 and 2005 were: Virginia Educators CU, Newport News, and Connects FCU, Richmond, according to a grand jury indictment.

Authorities began rounding up and arresting the suspects early last week in Virginia, Houston, Dallas, Indianapolis, Baltimore, Charlotte and Lexington, Ky. One of the suspects charged in the indictment, Pamela Hoffler-Riddick, is the assistant superintendent for schools in Prince George's County, Md., and a former administrator for Virginia Beach Schools.

She is charged with five counts in a 324-count federal indictment accusing her of laundering thousands of dollars in drug proceeds through a Virginia Educators CU account in the months following her departure from the Norfolk schools division.

TFCU Counts Pennies For People

TAUNTON, Mass.-Taunton FCU will count and roll more than 125,000 pennies-representing victims of southeast Asia's tsunami-collected by the local church.

The pennies, collected by First Parish Church across the street from the credit union, were originally supposed to represent each of the victims of the massive tidal waves, but the death toll has since far exceeded that.

The credit union, which volunteered to count and roll the pennies and write the $1,250 check, expects the massive effort to take two or three weeks.

Zimmerman Departs CU Scene

ARLINGTON, Va.-John Zimmerman, a fixture at credit union-related congressional hearings, as well as NCUA meetings for more than a decade, is leaving the credit union movement, again, on Feb. 11 to travel with his wife, a State Department diplomat who is being assigned to the Mediterranean island country of Cyprus.

Zimmerman, an accomplished photographer, has served the past eight years as public affairs manager/spokesman for NAFCU, since returning from north Africa/Israel at his wife Jane's last overseas posting.

Before going overseas last time he served as lobbyist for NCUA, and ran the NAFCU PAC before that.

Hockey Team Helps The Hungry

MOLINE, Ill.-The Quad City Mallards of the minor league United Hockey League said its recent Credit Union Night Food Drive raised 730 pounds of food for Riverbend Food Bank, which will distribute it to local charities to feed the hungry. Ten area credit unions participated: Aegis CU, Deere Harvester CU, DuTrac CU, Gas & Electric CU, HON Industries Community CU, KONE Employees CU, Moline Municipal CU, RIA CU, River City Community CU and Service Plus CU.

Robber Shot During Stand-Off

LAKELAND, Fla.-Polk County sheriff's deputies shot an alleged serial robber after the suspect robbed MidFlorida CU, then held a woman hostage at a local motel.

Wesley Caruthers, 39, was shot outside his room at Crossroads Motor Lodge, then rushed to the hospital, where he was being guarded.

Police had been hunting for Caruthers after he allegedly held-up the CU's branch in nearby Bartow. He is also suspected in at least four other recent bank robberies.

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