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Suit Says Christensen Friend Figured in $2-Million Fraud

January 23, 1987|JAMES S. GRANELLI and JOHN SPANO | Times Staff Writers

Acting on information uncovered by the state agency that seized control of North America Savings & Loan Assn. last week, Imperial Bank has filed a lawsuit claiming that it was defrauded of $2 million by the close friend and business manager of the institution's late owner, Duayne D. Christensen.

The suit, filed late Wednesday in Orange County Superior Court, alleges that Janet F. McKinzie provided fraudulent documents and falsely represented that Christensen had more than $2.5 million in certificates of deposit at North America Savings that could be used as security for a $2-million loan to Christensen, which matured Dec. 31.

And a sworn statement filed by an Imperial Bank official said that state officials believe that up to 160 certificates of deposit supposedly issued by North America Savings may not exist at all.

Christensen, 56, a Westminster dentist, died early Friday, hours before his institution was seized, when his automobile missed a curve on the Corona del Mar Freeway and crashed into an abutment.

Imperial Bank Vice President Ronald L. Askew filed a statement in which he said that William Davis, deputy state commissioner of savings and loan, told him that many other apparently fake certificates of deposit had been discovered at North America Savings.

'He (Davis) told me at that time that they had uncovered up to an additional 160 certificates of deposit supposedly issued by North America which the state thought simply did not exist,' according to Askew's statement.

Despite Imperial's demand for the certificate that Christensen had pledged to secure the loan, Davis said it was never valid 'but was at all times a hoax and a fraud,' according to Askew's statement.

The lawsuit named McKinzie as having provided assurances that the certificate was genuine and asks for $5 million in damages from her and other defendants.

In addition, Imperial lawyers claimed that Christensen had placed most of his personal assets in a living trust controlled by McKinzie. McKinzie is executrix of Christensen's will, according to the lawsuit.

McKinzie could not be reached for comment.

Christensen received a $3.5-million loan from Imperial for the purpose of buying eight convalescent hopsitals, according to bank court papers. The loan was originally made on Nov. 5, 1985, but extended twice thereafter when Christensen said the purchase had been delayed.

The lawsuit asks that seven properties in California and one in Oregon be seized to provide funds to satisfy the loan.

The Imperial Bank lawsuit also named as defendants G. R. Wheeler and Michael T. Buckly, identified as friends and occasional business associates of Christensen. Both were listed as purchasers of the convalescent homes in documents pertaining to the sale, a sale that never took place, according to Imperial.

Imperial Bank lawyers sought to interview Clarence R. Whie Jr., senior vice president of North America Savings. The lawsuit states that he "attested to the authenticity of a number of documents generated by Christensen and/or North America that were relied upon by Imperial in making the loans to Christensen."

Attached to the lawsuit was a copy of what purported to be a written assurance over the apparent signatures of six directors of North America Savings attesting to the Christensen certificate of deposit that Imperial Bank alleges does not exist.

Orange County Superior Court Commissioner Barbara H. Evans approved Imperial's request to interview McKinzie under oath on Monday, two weeks earlier than would have been possible under normal court procedures.

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