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Texas CUs, Banks Eye HELOCS

AUSTIN, Texas-Credit unions have joined the banks and S&Ls in a lobby group aimed at expanding the state's four-year-old home equity lending laws to allow them to offer home equity lines of credit.

The Texas Conference for Homeowners' Rights, which is headed by John Tippets, president of American Airlines FCU, is working with lawmakers to draft legislation to allow HELOCs, which allow homeowners to borrow against their home equity when they want, up to a certain limit.

Voters in the Lone Star state approved an amendment to the state constitution in 1997 allowing lenders to make home equity loans, but the measure did not allow for HELOCs, allowed in all 49 other states.

The lobby group believes that consumers would benefit from HELOCs because they would not have to keep going back to the lender for additional approval and paying additional fees. A HELOC measure would also have to be approved by voters.

Violent Gang Hits SAFCU Twice

PHOENIX-A band of five armed robbers who led police on a high-speed chase through city streets after a heist at SAFCU are believed to be the identical bandits who held up the same credit union the week before.

"Four of the five were in on it," said Phoenix Police Sgt. Benny Pina. At least one of the suspects has also confessed to robbing three grocery-store bank branches in recent months, said Pina, who believes they will tie several other robberies to the gang in coming weeks based on surveillance videos taken during the robberies. "We think it's them," Pina told The Credit Union Journal. "But they're fully masked and gloved-up, so it's hard to prove it's them."

The five were arrested after a chase through city streets at speeds up to 100 mph that demolished several vehicles and sent at least two motorists to the hospital. Both motorists, including a 73-year-old driver who suffered serious head injuries, are recovering. Police recovered the $9,000 stolen from the credit union hidden in a bush near where they chased down the suspects.

Police Nab Robber, Free Hostage

CHARLOTTE, N.C.-A female employee held hostage after a botched hold-up at CU Service Centers was freed unharmed after police captured the robber following a high-speed chase.

About 12 police cars chased the getaway car down the highway and onto southbound I-77 after he fled the credit union, snarling traffic. The robbery suspect surrendered without incident after he was cornered by police.

E*Trade Builds ATM Fleet

MENLO PAK, Calif.-E*Trade Group has acquired the contracts for another 4,000 ATMs, pushing its fast-growing ATM fleet to 15,000, the second largest in the country.

E*Trade today said it has purchased 4,000 Xtra Cash ATM operations contracts owned by Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce.

Credit Card Charge-Offs Rise

NEW YORK-The credit card charge-off rate climbed to 7.5% of receivables in December, the second-highest loss rate since 1992, according to Standard & Poor's. That's up from 7.1% in November and 6.9% in October.

The highest loss rate was recorded in March 2002 at 7.6%. Card charge-offs then began a slow decline before bottoming out in August at 6.5%. Since September, however, loss rates have increased. S&P monitors the performance of approximately $420 billion in card bonds.

CUNA Mutual Mortgages Bloom

MADISON, Wis.-CUNA Mutual Mortgage Corporation said it made more than $4.7 billion in mortgage originations in 2002, a 52% rise over the previous year's high of $3.1 billion.

That included a record $446 million in loans in December, up from $260 million the previous December.

By year-end the credit union mortgage bank saw its loan servicing portfolio mushroom to almost $9 billion, up from $7 billion at year-end 2001, and 93,000 loans, compared to 80,000 the previous year.

Phony Robbery Hid Embezzlement Scheme

GREENSBORO, N.C.-A former administrative assistant at Salvaho CU was charged with concocting a story about a robbery to hide her embezzlement of $129,500. Gina Shinn told police that a man forced her to open the credit union early on Dec. 26, then robbed the credit union. She later confessed the story was a lie to hide her crimes. Police found $52,932 in cash at her home, some of it hidden in the freezer and some in her office.

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