New York credit union to persist in helping Muslim immigrants
ROCHESTER, NY - Genesee Co-op Federal Credit Union said it will continue to help Muslim immigrants from Somalia even though investigators have uncovered a terrorist support cell only 60 miles away, according to Eric Anderson-Zych, CEO of the $6.3 million institution. "We have helped about 45 Somali immigrants who have needed financial services in the last two years," Anderson-Zych said. "We have always found them as tremendously safe borrowers, although not always the most profitable since they often pay off their loans ahead of schedule," he added. On September 14 federal investigators and local prosecutors in Buffalo, New York, arrested five men of Yemeni background, four native American citizens and one immigrant, and accused them of providing support and assistance to Al Qaeda, the terrorist organization widely considered responsible for the September 11 attacks. Rochester is about 60 miles from Buffalo but the communities are close, Anderson-Zych said. Anderson-Zych said the credit union had been aware of the impulse, after the September 11 attack, to be suspicious of all Muslim borrowers but that the credit union board had opted to continue working with the poor immigrants, most of whom have little experience with financial services. The credit union does check its members and borrowers names against the Office of Financial Control's list of suspicious and wanted people through an outside contractor, Anderson-Zych said, but has never gotten a positive hit. Federal regulators in May cautioned the credit union to be sure to consult the OFAC list and to treat the Somali borrowers cautiously to avoid taking losses on their loans, but the credit union had never had any problem being repaid on loans to any Somali, Anderson-Zych said.