After an almost two-year investigation started by NorthWest Liberty News and now, Montana Daily Gazette (MDG), the proof seems incontrovertible. In the following article, MDG will expose the systematic, organized, and criminal theft between $100 million and $500 Million in properties and assets from borrowers and members of the Whitefish Credit Union (WFCU).
An important point needs to be highlighted before we begin exposing the colossal bank fraud perpetrated by WFCU. Every single person who looked at the evidence we gathered – ranging from local to state law enforcement who were currently members of WFCU – proving property theft by the organization removed their funds and closed their accounts with WFCU, with no exceptions. To reiterate, every single person closed their accounts upon hearing our information, without exception.
Furthermore, every investigative agency that has reviewed the documentation contained within this article has concluded that WFCU is guilty of committing financial crimes against Thorco Incorporated and its owners, Dennis and Donna Thornton, including the Flathead County Attorney and the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI).
Before we expose the criminality of the modern-day WFCU, let’s take a look back to better times when they were first established and why one former member stated that “Whitefish Credit Union used to have the best reputation for honesty in Montana,” which is a claim that should never again be spoken after the evidence is revealed herein.
From the WFCU website…
Whitefish Credit Union was established on Aug. 29, 1934, by a group of railroad workers who pooled together $5 apiece. Exactly 74 years later, on Aug. 29, the credit union surpassed the $1 billion mark in asset value. Today, it has six branches located in Thompson Falls, Eureka, Polson, Columbia Falls, Whitefish, and Kalispell. In Kalispell, there is a main branch and a commercial branch.
According to the many former members who were interviewed for this article, the “most trusted” status of WFCU began to become tarnished right around 2009 or 2010. Coincidentally, that is right about the same time that long-serving President and CEO Charlie Abell stepped down and was replaced by James Kenyon III.
According to former WFCU members, Kenyon, who served 14 years as Senior VP of Missoula Federal Credit Union before joining WFCU, is the person most responsible for changing the culture of WFCU from one of the most trusted banking institutions in Montana to the apparent asset-stripping criminal operation outlined in the article below. Those words might seem harsh, but they were shared, at least in part, by former Regional Director of the National Credit Union Association (NCUA), Mr. Allen Carver.
Carver, who retired after a 34-year career with the NCUA, was hired by the victim, Dennis Thornton, to investigate the theft of his property by WFCU. Carver, now a private consultant, clearly outlines the wrongdoing of WFCU against Thornton in his report, which was sealed under a judge’s protection order and has not been disseminated publicly until now.
Montana Daily Gazette, shielded by the strongest Journalism Shield Law in the United States (thank you Rep. Daniel Zolnikov), has helped affirm our spirit of fearless reporting, even when publishing that which was ordered sealed by a Montana judge. But we do not work for the judge; we work for our readers and our fine patrons in the state of Montana.
From pages 6 and 7 of the Carver Report:
According to Call Reports filed with the NCUA, as of September 30, 2013, WFCU was reported to be Montana’s largest credit union with 56,527 members, assets of 1.2 billion dollars, and a branching structure of six offices…It is believed that Whitefish is one of the 250 largest credit unions in the United States. Those (same) Call Reports showed WFCU engaged in potentially high-risk Member Business Loan activities that increased dramatically from $63 Million as of March 31, 2003, to $317,320,126 as of March 31, 2009. Carver goes on further regarding Kenyon: Charlie Abell, Whitefish’s long-time Chief Executive Officer, resigned and was replaced by Jim Kenyon in September 2009. When Whitefish’s Board of Directors hired Mr. Kenyon, they mandated that he “take care” of problems with loans, delinquent loans, but especially development type or commercial loans. The board enacted a policy in 2009 of not loaning any more money on development loans until circumstances were worked out that were causing a problem. It was disclosed that newly hired CEO Kenyon perhaps went beyond the board’s policy and said that there was a new policy adopted by him and followed by the credit union regarding this no new lending on ongoing development loans. Carver continues, It is important to note that borrowers with Member Business Loans were not notified by WFCU that they would not be loaning any more money on development loans, including existing loans.Emphasis added by Montana Daily Gazette
Carver summarizes his report with the following statement…
In summary, it is my professional opinion, based on my 48 years in the credit union industry (33 years as a regulator and 15 years as a consultant), that WFCU clearly committed and violated not only a verbal agreement to finance the entire Thornton project to a total of approximately $7 million but also committed a Breach of a Written Contract involving the loaning of $500,00 and subordination of their lien as shown in the March 11, 2009, Whitefish letter outlining the general terms of the financing agreement signed by Doug Johnson, WFCH Vice President, Member Business Loan Officer to the Thorntons and usual customary procedures dealing with Member Business Loans. As a large, billion-dollar asset credit union, the WFCU Board of Directors and Senior Staff knew or should have known how to reduce their Member Business Loan Portfolio.
No doubt their handling of this issue created unnecessary financial hardship for impacted borrowers, such as the Thorntons, their employees, and the inability of these borrowers to enjoy the profits that a full-completed development would have provided.
YOU CAN READ THE PREVIOUSLY SEALED REPORT FROM FORMER NCUA REGIONAL DIRECTOR ALLEN CARVER BY CLICKING HERE
Allen Carver was far from the only professional that was hired by Thornton to investigate the theft of his property. In addition to Carver, Thornton hired a private investigator, Rick Hawk, who worked for 15 years in the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office before going into private practice. Hawk’s interview is linked below and can be viewed at your leisure. In the meantime, here is an excerpt from the interview:
I think we can show that Whitefish Credit Union engaged in a deliberate, planned, systematic effort to obtain properties that they had loans against and certainly was, in my opinion, unethical and in other’s opinions, illegal. – Rick Hawk – Private Investigator (retired)
Investigator Rick Hawk produced a full report regarding the Thornton case which can be seen by clicking here.
In his quest to recover his stolen property, Thornton did what any reasonable person would do and he contacted his local legislators to find out if they were going to stand for their constituents, or fail miserably as so many seem to do. Thankfully, there are great legislators in Flathead County who stepped up to help Thornton, such as Senator Mark Blaisdell and Representatives Mark Noland and Derek Skees. All 3 of them presented Thornton’s case to Attorney General Austin Knudsen, who is investigating the presence of criminal activity right now.
Representative Skees, a friend of Thornton who serves Flathead County as a legislator, recently appeared on Montana Gazette Radio, the companion broadcast to Montana Daily Gazette, to clearly illustrate his viewpoint that Thornton was treated unfairly, at least, and perhaps criminally, as Skees shares the same opinion of everyone else who looks at the case and that is the fact that Thornton’s land was stolen.
Even though AG Knudsen’s office is reviewing the Thornton case for criminal activity, it is the duty of Flathead County Prosecutor Travis Ahner to bring the perpetrators who stole Thornton’s land to justice. MDG reporters that questioned several high-ranking members of the Flathead County hierarchy were told that Ahner is “lazy and ineffective,” and law enforcement is “fed-up” with Ahner and his actions. Those are their words, and not ours. If you want to ask County Attorney Ahner why he backs the banks over Flathead citizens, you can call his Office Administrator, Vickie Eggum, by dialing (406)758-5641
To be fair, Ahner did take time to review the Thornton case and told Thornton, in front of several witnesses, that there was sufficient evidence to prove financial crimes against Thornton by WFCU, but that Ahner didn’t have the resources to assign anyone that could assist Thornton. This is precisely why the office of Attorney General in Montana exists, and we would humbly request that Attorney General Knudsen would utilize the resources of the State of Montana to amend this miscarriage of justice in the Flathead Valley.
Thornton, a lifetime Montana citizen who enjoyed an impeccable reputation and a top-tier credit rating before being victimized by WFCU, joined Jim White from Montana Gazette Radio to tell his side of the story, something that he has not been able to do publicly until now.
It is important to note, that this theft is not a matter of someone not paying a bill on their mortgaged property and therefore having their property confiscated. This appears to be an orchestrated scheme to offer mortgages, deny the required notifications (required by both state and federal law and internal WFCU policies) in a coordinated scheme to steal the property and assets of their members without due process, fair notice, or even the slightest effort to notify them of their obligations via mail, email, or phone calls. In short, the WFCU sought out members – particularly the elderly – offered mortgages on property to hold liens, and then called the liens due and confiscated their property without giving their members an opportunity to pay back that which was borrowed. It is, for lack of a better word, organized theft. Charges ought to include racketeering against WFCU, its employees, and its management as a whole.
Should an employee like to avoid such criminal charges brought against them for their complicit participation in this theft, they should call the MDG VIP News Tip Hotline at 406-414-6504 and understand that whistleblower laws exist to protect them, but only if they come clean before criminal charges are brought against them. It is advised that employee whistleblowers call MDG before approaching law enforcement with their information, just in the slightest of chances that the WFCU is using member resources to intentionally slow the wheels of justice. We will ensure that their information goes to the very top of state and federal law enforcement, even if local officials take a hands-off approach to dealing with this criminal injustice.
Sadly, Dennis and Donna Thornton are not the only victims of asset-stripping in America, in fact, they are not even the only victims in Montana as several more Montana citizens have reached out to MDG during the course of our investigation. Two such victims are Randy and Toni Mitchell, who came on NorthWest Liberty News roughly 2 years ago to expose the predatory, asset-stripping actions taken against them by the same WFCU. At the time of the interview linked below, the vast depth and breadth of the crimes being committed against unsuspecting members of WFCU were not yet known.
In summary, it is important to know that despite the length and volume of information contained in this article, the investigation into crimes, by not only WFCU but other banks in Flathead County, is just beginning. If you think that financial crimes have been committed against you, there are a couple of things that you can do. First, visit the Office of Consumer Protection by clicking here.
As you will easily surmise, the Office of Consumer Protection falls under the purview of Attorney General Austin Knudsen, who is well aware of the Thornton case and others in Montana. So, visit the link and make a complaint. Furthermore, you can send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will make sure that your case gets proper attention.
There are copious amounts of documentation on the Dennis Thornton case, a small portion of which can be accessed by clicking here
Remember, a credit union is owned by its members. So if you are a member of WFCU, the theft of other people’s property is going on in your name. If you want your credit union to stop stealing other member’s property, give CEO James Kenyon a call at this number 406-862-3525.