BERLIN, N.H. -- Claiming that a bank employee may have taken $4.2 million in certificates of deposits from its members, Guardian Angel Credit Union has filed a class action suit to recover the money plus accrued interest.
According to a July 1 complaint filed with the U.S. District Court in New Hampshire, the $40 million Guardian Angel deposited $99,000 with MetaBank on April 15, 2005. On April 17, 2006 and again in April 2007, the credit union renewed the CD with the bank. On Jan. 25, 2008, MetaBank sent a letter to Guardian Angel stating that it had "recently become aware of unauthorized certificates of deposit issued under its logo and brand name." The suit said Meta Bank employee Charlene M. Pickhinke had "absconded with the [CU CD] deposit"
Attorneys for Guardian Angel sent letters on Feb. 26, March 21, April 4 and on April 24 to the bank demanding return of the money plus accrued interest, according to the suit. Randall F. Cooper, an attorney with North Conway, N.H.-based Cooper Cargill Chant, which is representing the credit union, said the firm is currently waiting on a certification order to see if the court will view the claim as a class action suit.
"They're entitled to their money. Simple," Cooper told Credit Union Times. "There are approximately 50 members that were in that pickle."
Cooper said Christopher Meier, an attorney with Cooper Cargill Chant, has been the key counsel representing the credit union but was unavailable at press time to comment.
Meta Financial Group in Buena Vista County, Iowa. is the holding company of MetaBank in Sioux Falls, S.D. "We're not able to comment because it is under investigation," said Lisa Binder with investor relations at Meta Financial Group.
According to the complaint, on Feb. 11, 2008, Guardian Angel learned through Danny Reynolds, director of fraud and loss at MetaBank, that Pickhinke had indeed absconded with the deposits As further proof, a May 15 SEC 10-Q filing noted that a former employee absconded with a number of deposits made by customers to MetaBank for certificates of deposit and that the employee took all funds deposited relating to outstanding CDs, totaling approximately $4.2 million in face value.
The attorneys representing the credit union noted that MetaBank failed to detect the theft allegedly committed by Pickhinke over a three-year period. Pickhinke served in a supervisory position at the bank, the suit noted.
Guardian Angel CU is seeking financial relief on several counts, including breach of contract, negligence and vicarious liability.
"Basically, our lawyers have advised us not to discuss the matter at this time, and all I can really tell you is to refer to the documents filed with the court, and we simply will have no further comment," said Gerald Dumoulin, president and treasurer of Guardian Angel CU.
Founded in 1929, the credit union serves more than 4,800 members.