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LANSING, Mich. -State regulators have removed three officials of Birch Run Area Credit Union claiming the credit union gave preferential treatment to two of the officials. NCUA has moved in to arrange a merger or an assumption of shares. Suspended Sept. 27 were president and CEO Harold Johnson, general manager Sheila DiBerardino and credit committee member Sherri Hollerback. In a notice of intent to remove the officials, Frank M. Fitzgerald, commissioner of the state Office of Financial and Insurance Services, said two recent examinations indicated that Johnson and Hollerback, who is Johnson’s daughter, “clearly used the credit union for their own personal gain.” The notice said DiBerardino approved loans to the two and “was responsible for allowing the overdraft activities to continue.” Julia Smith, spokesperson for the state Office of Financial and Insurance Services, said the credit union maintained “negative draft share accounts” for Johnson and Hollerback. Smith said the credit union’s board of directors has agreed with the commission’s action. A call to the credit union was answered by an NCUA employee who referred calls to NCUA’s public affairs office. NCUA spokesperson Molly Schar said her agency is “there as the insurer and at the invitation of the state.” She said NCUA was working to put together a merger, a purchase or an assumption of shares. OFIS also claims that the credit union agreed to purchase a property owned by Johnson for a new office and that, “Activities performed by Sheila DiBerardino regarding the remodeling of this property were done without reasonable due diligence.” DiBerardino is also accused of making entries after she was notified of OFIS’s investigation that, the notice said, “appear to be an attempt to obscure evidence of wrongdoing in the overdrafts and unreconciled accounts.” Birch Run Area CU is located in Birch Run, Mich., 15 miles north of Flint. It has assets of $4.8 million. “This action is a result of repeated and serious violations of the Michigan credit union act,” Fitzgerald said in a press statement. “With the removal of those three individuals, the Birch Run Area Credit Union Board of Directors is responsible for the safety and soundness of the credit union.” A hearing has been set for October 28 to take permanent action. No criminal charges have yet been filed.

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