Fraud Claim Against NCUA in St. Paul Croatian Fallout
An Ohio church has alleged the NCUA staff committed fraud when they did not allow it to withdraw its funds from the failing St. Paul Croatian Federal Credit Union before the credit union was placed into conservatorship.
The credit union was placed into conservatorship in April 2010 and numerous lawsuits and criminal indictments have followed in its wake. The collapse cost the NCUSIF $170 million.
The church, Holy Love Ministry, of North Ridgeville, Ohio, has sued the agency as agent for the St. Paul liquidation in an attempt to recover the balance of the more than $1.5 million that the church said it had in two joint accounts prior to the liquidation. The church's most recent motion seeks to force the NCUA to provide the documents and depositions that the church said will help it prove its allegations.
The NCUA has resisted having to provide documents or have staff deposed on the grounds that the Administrative Procedures Act does not generally allow for discovery in judicial review cases.
The church alleged in its motion before Judge Donald Nugent of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio that there was evidence in the administrative records surrounding the liquidation that the NCUA staff had acted in bad faith toward the church.
“The problem case officer, Kim Paige, is evidenced to have known of St. Paul’s fate and the intentions of NCUA, her employer,” the church argued. “She admits in the record, that 'We asked Josip Gojevic to let [Joe Plavac] know that he needed to hold off taking this money out until the following week. After the conservatorship later that day, Mr. Plavac was informed he was allowed to take out the same $5,000 per week as the rest of the members.”
The church also suggested the NCUA staff knew about the upcoming conservatorship at the same time they urged the church not to withdraw its funds.
Paige’s refusal to more withdrawals was not a spur-of-the-moment decision, the church claimed. “Rather, NCUA agents discussed the matter beforehand, once again giving evidence that the agents knew of the impending conservatorship,” the church added.
Further, the church alleged that Andy Bauman, a retired NCUA examiner that the agency had brought in to oversee operations during the conservatorship, told the credit union's employees to contact members with balances of over $250,000 so they could correct their accounts to better their chances of getting all their money back.
“Employees contacted members with balances in excess of $250,000 to restructure their accounts to maximize insurance coverage,” the church alleged. “The record shows that conservatorship staff assisted some members in restructuring their accounts to ensure as much insurance coverage as possible. In permitting account restructures, numerous members were permitted to transfer large sums of money into other types of ownership accounts or accounts of other natural person or business members,’” Holy Love argued, adding, “without proper notice that restructuring was an option, NCUA knowingly allowed Holy Love to remain with a large sum of their accounts uninsured.”
Jay Milano, one of the lawyers for the church, said he felt confident that the church will get at least some degree of discovery from its motion, noting that the material and quotes that it cited were all part of the administrative record that had already been entered into the record.
“I believe everything we cited already in there,” Milano said, adding that all those comments should make the court at least curious to find out more. The NCUA had not filed its response to the church's motion at press time.
But Milano also cautioned that the litigation is still in a relatively early stage and not yet close to where the case might go to trial or be settled out of court. After the NCUA files its motion in response to the church's, Milano said there was no way of knowing how long the court would take to come to a decision.
“One thing I learned a long time ago,” Milano said, “is that you can't take a stick to a federal judge.”