A New York credit union president's struggle to save his tiny institution from liquidation has gone from difficult to almost hopeless.

Alan Guthartz, president of New Hyde Park-based Nationwide Tenants Federal Credit Union, sued the National Credit Union Administration last May to reverse a conservatorship imposed a few weeks before.

His chances for success seemed slim in spring, but they've gotten worse in winter.

Legal expenses were getting too high, he said, so he's been without counsel since mid-December. The NCUA told U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia early this month that it planned to liquidate Nationwide Tenants on or after Jan 20.

"It's gotten very, very hard," Mr. Guthartz said.

The NCUA has yet to liquidate the credit union, and it will not do so before a status conference is held in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. The case was moved there from the District of Columbia federal court at the agency's request.

"We want to be respectful of the court," said Bob Loftus, NCUA director of public and congressional affairs. "We don't think we ought to do anything without letting the court know our reasons."

Mr. Guthartz has taken his cause straight to the NCUA board with a letter sent this month.

"The proposed voluntary liquidation of this small, highly capitalized credit union, which has no loan or invest ment problems, before it even has been permitted to exhaust its statutory remedies, is definitely not in the best interest of its members," the letter said.

"I am urging you to use your powers to assist us."

It seems doubtful he'll get help.

"We intend to liquidate it," Mr. Loftus said. "We're not in any hurry. After all, the credit union's been sitting there for 10 years with 26 members and hardly any operations. We don't see any big risk" to the insurance fund.

Nationwide Tenants was seized last spring and has been operating under conservatorship ever since.

The NCUA said it took over the $138,000-asset credit union because it was nothing more than a bank for Mr. Guthartz and a group of cronies.

Mr. Guthartz portrayed the institution as one that chose to grow slowly and was on the brink of expanding when the NCUA locked its doors.

Mr. Guthartz is now representing himself and is seeking pro bono counsel. He had been represented by attorney Keith Fisher of the law firm Silver, Freedman & Taff, but Mr. Fisher filed a motion to withdraw from the case Dec. 15.

Mr. Fisher wouldn't comment on why he withdrew, but Mr. Guthartz said he could no longer afford to be represented by the Washington law firm.

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