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NCUA Awards One New Charter...

ST. LOUIS-NCUA said it awarded a charter to eight local community groups for Choices FCU, the second credit union chartered so far this year. The new institution was organized by NCUA and will qualify as a low-income credit union. The credit union will serve the employees of Better Family Life, Beyond Housing/Neighborhood Housing Services of St. Louis, Inc., Catholic Commission on Housing, Good Samaritan Service Center, Habitat for Humanity St. Louis, Justine Peterson Housing and Reinvestment Corporation, STEP, Inc., and the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis. It will also serve members of Stakeholder Clients' Association. The sponsoring organizations will provide volunteers, as well as free office space to support the credit union.

...While Another CU Is Shut Down

PITTSBORO, N.C.-State regulators shut down one of the nation's oldest African-American credit unions Tuesday after discovering widespread accounting irregularities in the institution. The closure stunned members of Chatham-Lee CU as they lost a long-standing neighborhood lender. The credit union had served Pittsboro's African-American neighborhood for nearly 50 years when other institutions would not. Credit union accounts were frozen for two weeks, but the money is protected by federal deposit insurance under NCUSIF. The FBI is investigating the matter.

Two Large Wash. CUs To Merge

OLYMPIA, Wash.-Twin County CU said it has agreed to combine with Harborstone CU to create the state's third largest credit union with $1.1 billion in assets serving more than 120,000 members. The new credit union giant will be the 95th credit union with more than $1 billion in assets. The combined entity will have as its home Lacey, where Twin County CU is currently building a new headquarters and Marshall Ellison, current president of TCCU, will be president/COO. Harborstone's Rick Schmidtke will be CEO. Twin County CU was chartered in 1938 to serve teachers in Thurston County; while Harborstone CU was started in 1955 to serve McChord Air Force Base in Lakewood. The new credit union will trail only Boeing Employees CU and Washington State Employees CU as the state's largest.

Four Colo. CUs Planning Merger

DENVER-Four area credit unions are exploring combining together to create one of the state's largest credit unions in a rare four-way merger. The combination would join Premier Member FCU, Boulder; Colorado Central CU, Arvada; Horizons North CU, Northglenn and Norlaco CU, Fort Collins, to create a $620- million institution serving more than 100,000 members. The four credit unions already participate jointly in several CUSOs, which has prompted the merger talks.

Fishing Hat Bandit: I'm Not Guilty

ST. PAUL, Minn.-A man charged with committing a string of 21 credit union and bank robberies over an 18-month stretch pleaded not guilty to the charges in federal court last week, even though authorities said he already confessed to 19 of the heists. The FBI said John Whitrock, 56, of nearby Burnside, was the serial bank robber known as the Fishing Hat Bandit, so-called because he wore a floppy fishing hat and deep-water waders during most of the hold-ups. Whitrock was arrested Jan. 7 after robbing Real Financial CU, when the credit union manager, Dean Wickstrom, tracked him down during his getaway and alerted police to his hiding place. Authorities said 15 of the robberies were at credit unions and six at banks.

Police Search For 'Mr. Magoo'

CENTENNIAL, Colo.-Police are searching for a man who robbed the Columbine FCU here last week whom they believe may be responsible for several other area robberies. The robber has been dubbed Mr. Magoo because of thick glasses he wore during the hold-up. After handing the teller a demand note, the robber threatened the woman, saying, "Clear the till or I'll kill you."

When the teller looked around the room, the robber reportedly said, "Look at me, or I'll kill you." He also showed her what appeared to be the butt of a gun that he kept near his waist.

The robber took the cash and left. The robber's appearance was similar to the person described in at least 15 other recent bank robberies: a white man wearing a baseball cap and thick glasses.

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