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Mortgage Rates Hold Steady

McLEAN, Va.-Long-term mortgage rates showed no effect from the massive disaster unfolding in the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina, with the average for the 30-year-rate holding steady this week, after falling each of the previous three weeks, according to Freddie Mac. ARM rates, however, continued to decline, displaying the uncertainty of the markets.

The average for the benchmark 30-year, fixed-rate loan was unchanged last week at 5.71%; while the average for the 15-year, fixed-rate mortgage slipped slightly to 5.30%, from 5.32% last week. One-year ARM average also slipped to 4.45%, from 4.48%; and the five-year ARM average fell to 5.24%, form 5.30%.

"We expect that near-term growth will now be a bit weaker than had been anticipated, due in very large part to the disruption in economic activity brought on by Katrina," said Frank Nothaft, chief economist at Freddie Mac. "However, the federal monies that will flow into the damaged areas and the lower interest rates brought on by the disaster will stimulate economic growth next year, making up for the slowdown in the last part of this year."

FBI Investigating Embezzlement

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa.-Officials at Patriot FCU confirmed that they have fired an employee who allegedly had stolen $180,000 from the credit union. No charges have been filed yet, but the FBI has launched an investigation, the credit union said. The missing funds were discovered last month during an internal investigation, an official at the $320-million credit union said.

Constitution State To Federal

HARTFORD, Conn.-The state Department of Banking has approved an application for Constitution State Credit Union to convert to a federal charter.

The charter switch will allow the $2-billion Wallingford-based corporate to save as much as $100,000 a year in state supervisory fees and will exempt it from certain taxes, including the Unrelated Business Income Tax, known as UBIT.

Fishing Hat Bandit Sent Up River

ST. PAUL, Minn.-John Whitrock, the mild-mannered 57-year-old who robbed as many as 24 credit unions over two years, was sentenced to 15 years in prison and ordered to pay $97,000 in restitution. Whitrock, who never showed a gun in any of his hold-ups, confessed to 19 robberies, but is believed to have been responsible for as many as 25-making him the most prolific bank robber in the state's history.

Whitrock, dubbed the Fishing Hat Bandit for his preferred headgear during the heists, was finally reeled in on Jan. 7 when Dean Wickstrom, president of Real Financial Center CU, chased him after a hold-up and called police on his cell phone to tell them where Whitrock was hiding.

Most of the robberies involved small amounts, between $326 and $12,877, netting the Fishing Hat Bandit less than $90,000, in total

The Force Is Not With Robber

NEW LONDON, Conn.-A local man was arrested and charged with robbing Core Plus CU earlier in the day while wearing a Darth Vader mask as a disguise. Police have alleged that Mostafa Abohassab, 31, was the man in the mask who robbed the credit union at gunpoint around 10:20 am on Sept. 12.

Abohassab was tracked down after witnesses took down his license plate number as he was making his getaway from the CU and gave it to police.

Market USA Moving Into Market

LAUREL, Md.-Market USA FCU, which serves employees of the Giant Food supermarket chain, said it is opening its first New England branch, in downtown Quincy, Mass., to serve its affiliate Stop & Shop Supermarket Corp. The $90-million CU was founded in 1953 as Giant Food FCU, then changed its name two years ago to Ahold USA FCU, to reflect the acquisition of the sponsor company by Dutch grocer Royal Ahold. Earlier this year, the name was changed again to Market USA.

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